Internet use in Wales and beyond

Graphic icons on inter connected network

Image copyright free from Pixabay

Two recent reports show patterns of Internet use in Wales and the UK. According to the National Survey for Wales for 2013-14:

  • 75% of households in Wales had access to the Internet at home;
  • 79% of people said they currently used the Internet at home, work or elsewhere;
  • 18% of people aged 18 and over reported that they had never used the Internet. Of those, 61% didn’t want to and 40% didn’t need to use the internet; 28% stated that they did not have the skills to use the Internet;
  • 78% of 18 to 24 year olds accessed the Internet from a mobile/smart phone;
  • The three most commonly-used devices to access the Internet were: a laptop at home or in work (71%), a mobile or smartphone (53%), and a desktop computer (48%).

However, behind the headlines, there are some important differences. For example, whereas 79% of owner-occupier households have home Internet access, only 56% of those living in social housing have Internet access. Only 67% of households living in the 20% most deprived areas in Wales had access to the Internet (compared with 85% in the 20% least deprived). And people with “at least some qualifications are over 1.5 times as likely to be digitally engaged as those with no qualifications”. Other factors affecting Internet use include age, health, employment status and socio-economic group.

When we look at where people are using the Internet, most people use it at home, but 47% of Internet users aged 18-24 had used it in another person’s home (presumably on mobile devices), and 20% of Internet users has used it in a public place (e.g. library, café or community centre).

Looking across the border, Ofcom published their Internet Citizens report for 2014 in November 2014. The report contains an overview and analysis of “UK adults’ online participation in citizen-orientated content and services.” That is, it’s looking at use of things like government websites, public service broadcasting, local community websites and it also has a whole chapter devoted to ‘Culture and libraries’ (based mainly on the ‘Taking Part Survey’ in England by the DCMS).

Some of their headline findings are:

  • The number of Internet users who say that they have ever completed a government process online increased from 53% in 2011 to 61% in 2013;
  • One in five UK Internet users accessed the UK Government web portal (GOV.UK) in July 2014;
  • Mobile devices are being used to access citizen websites e.g.45% of users of used a mobile device to visit the site;
  • Blogs were visited by 59% of adults who went online in 2013 and 23% said that they comments on blogs;
  • Half of adults say they browsed local news and information online at least monthly (51%), with 39% doing this at least weekly;
  • Content is being delivered across a range of platforms and in different formats i.e., not just traditional websites but via apps, social media, videos, photos, podcasts etc.

And, for most of the types of citizen websites (health, education, government etc.), it seems that most Internet visitors are in the AB socio-economic group.

Incidentally, the National Survey for Wales 2013-14 found that of those who use the Internet, 83% had accessed government or other public service websites within the past 12 months.

But what does all this mean for libraries?

A local presence online remains important to deliver targeted relevant information to your local audience, and doing this through a variety of media can be beneficial. Many people want to engage more, so by being able to ‘chat’ to the local library service online via Twitter or Facebook brings the service closer to the user. This can increase engagement levels, loyalty, trust etc. And the increase in access via mobile access means it’s essential websites are designed to work on all types of devices.

The UK report also highlights the benefits of digitising items to provide online access and expand your potential audience for those who can’t physically access a library by creating more online content. In the Taking Part survey, 14% of those surveyed had accessed a library website in 2013-14, and 50% of Internet users had used Wikipedia (p.67).

However, with most of the Internet users appearing to be from the AB (and to a lesser extent C1) social categories, it remains an important issue to consider what media and formats could be used to reach the rest of society. The digital divide is real and libraries are well placed in terms of access and skills assistance, although there are challenges around both of these issues. Libraries provide not only the physical access to computers and the Internet, but trained staff who are able to help people use computers, maybe for the first time.

Public libraries in Wales feature strongly in the digital inclusion agenda in Wales, and many are working with Communities 2.0 and other groups to help support people getting online for the first time. Public libraries in Wales open for more than 30 hours a week also offer free WiFi – a requirement that they achieved in order to meet part of one standard within the fourth framework of Welsh Public Library Standards. Interestingly, the review of public libraries in England (published 18th Dec 2014) also recommends WiFi for public libraries.

This post is mainly about the Internet and digital divide. There are of course many other computer related issues such as the ‘virtual’ library (being able to access resources remotely) and things like e-books, e-magazines, which is a whole other topic I could spend hours writing about!

Posted in Digital things, England, Libraries, Public libraries, Research, Technology, Wales, Welsh Public Library Standards | Leave a comment

WHELF Shared LMS announces chosen supplier


NEWS! Universities and Nat Lib Wales announce their shared LMS supplier.

Originally posted on WHELF:

Welsh Universities, the National Library of Wales and the NHS Libraries in Wales select a shared Library Management System

We are pleased to announce that a consortium of Welsh Universities, including the National Library of Wales, and the Welsh NHS Libraries, have selected the Ex Libris Alma unified resource management system and the Ex Libris Primo unified resource discovery and delivery system to provide a new shared Library Management System for the sector.

Jayne Dowden, Chief Operating Officer at Cardiff University, signing the contract for the provision of the shared LMS by Ex Libris on behalf of the WHELF consortium

The WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) Consortium has decided on the Alma and Primo next-generation solutions following a rigorous selection and assessment process. The 10 Libraries are Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Swansea University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Glyndwr University, the National Library of Wales, Cardiff University, Cardiff…

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A trio of public library standards

Three women sitting around a table of books

Reading group fun (C) Welsh Government Libraries Inspire

Regular readers of this blog, and those up to date with Welsh public library news, will know that in April 2014 a new framework of Welsh Public Library Standards was produced. You can read about the framework in an older post.

However, also during 2014 both Scotland and Northern Ireland refreshed their models for public library standards/performance monitoring frameworks.

I thought it might be interesting to have a look at how the three approaches compare, especially as the concept of standards/benchmarking is being discussed during debates about English public libraries, for example during the recent Westminster Hall parliamentary debate on public libraries, and at the Speak up for Libraries conference. Those debates reveal that there is some appetite for the return of public library standards for England, often by library managers and campaigners. However, we shall have to see what the Sieghart review proposes, and what then happens in England.

Scotland (through SLIC) has revised its 2007 Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix and this summer issued ‘How good is our public library service: a public library improvement model for Scotland’. Like Wales, the indicators are grouped into several main areas. For Scotland these are:

  • access to information
  • readers’ experience
  • learning culture
  • individual and community engagement, and
  • vision, strategy and continuous improvement.

In Northern Ireland, the standards are part of the library strategy ‘Delivering Tomorrow’s Libraries’, and were revised in 2014. The areas of focus for the standards are:

  • tackling poverty and social exclusion
  • participation
  • customer satistfaction
  • access
  • stock, and
  • access to information and communications technology.

For Wales, the four areas for the standards are:

  • customers and communities
  • access for all
  • learning for life, and
  • leadership and development.

All these different headings can be reduced to three to neatly sum up the essence of a library service:

  • things (stock, information, ICT etc)
  • people (experience, learning, engagement, inclusion etc)
  • how they’re managed (access, strategies, leadership etc).

But I must admit this over-simplifies the richness of a library service, and that’s what the different frameworks seek to draw out.

Since the start of Scotland’s framework they have pioneered self-evaluation and peer review as an integral part of their model. In the revised framework there are outlines of what performance looks like at six levels, from excellent and very good through to weak and unsatisfactory.

Thus Scotland does not have set targets for things like opening hours, spend on stock, but, in considering and reporting on each of the points within the core themes, library services are prompted to ask themselves questions about each point and judge the level of their performance against the 1-6 ratings.

In Northern Ireland there are specified targets for each library standard e.g. “at least 50% of young people aged 11-16 entitled to free school meals to have used the public library service in the last 12 months”. In Wales some of the 16 indicators have set targets to achieve whilst some indicators are reported as percentages with no target e.g. percentage of children who think the library has helped them learn new skills.

SLIC has created a toolkit of templates for library services to use to assist with the self-evaluation and for the peer review process and I like the ‘things to think about’ prompts within each section. I think this can be helpful for a library service to consider what it is currently doing and why.

Both the Welsh and the Scottish models have also sought to create entitlements for the public (Appendix 4 in How Good is Our Public Library Service, and the Core Entitlements in Libraries Making a Difference), including things like free access to books and the Internet, access to the authority’s library policies etc. 

This very brief review shows that there is no single way to measure or evaluate public library service, and I haven’t even touched on approaches outside the UK, such as the public library standards in the state of Victoria in Australia who were inspired by the original Scottish model (and Scotland have now re-adapted theirs!), or, the recent annoucement that the Public Library Association in America, has been awarded a grant of USD$2.9 million from the Global Libraries Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the development of performance outcome measures.

Neither have I addressed outcome and performance measures for other types of libraries e.g. colleges and universities. Time allowing, I will do that in a future blog post.

Posted in CyMAL, England, Governance, Libraries, Northern Ireland, Public libraries, Scotland, Wales, Welsh Public Library Standards | Tagged | Leave a comment

Techie award for Monmouthshire libraries

Logo for Carnegie Library LabThe Carnegie UK Trust have just announced their first round of Library Lab funding recipients, and Claire Lewis from Monmouthshire Libraries has won one of the places for her ‘ideas garage’ proposed project.

Claire is planning to create a community-led coding space in Chepstow Library (I think! This was refurbished with Welsh Government and Monmouthshire funding) which will be for people who want to gain and share skills and experience of coding, help them create and develop websites and games, and to increase their employability.

Claire was one of seven winners in this first round of Library Lab partners. You can see the full list on the Carnegie UK Trust news page.

When this coding club is established it will join the coding club run by Carmarthenshire Libraries with a local school, and Neath Port Talbot libraries’ Technoclubs which won another Carnegie UK Trust grant and which were also featured in the Guardian article Four of the UK’s most innovative libraries.

If there are other libraries in Wales doing similar techie things, let me know! It’s handy to know what’s going on around Wales. For example, anyone got a 3D printer yet?


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Digital inclusion briefing

Cat sleeping on computer keyboard

Learning how to use a keyboard is hard work for a cat. Image copyright free from Wikimedia Commons.

Many of those working in libraries will have been doing things that fall within ‘digital inclusion’ for some years, decades even. However, mainstream awareness of the importance of digital inclusion to society is now catching up with libraries, and there’s lots of new initiatives (e.g. the UK Government’s digital inclusion charter, Go OnDigital Inclusion in Wales, Communities 2.0 in Wales) and talk about what it is (my view: ensuring people have access to digitial equipment and that they have the skills to use it) in non-library circles (e.g. Age UK and the National Housing Federation).

A new briefing from CILIP on digital inclusion brings together some key headline figures about digital exclusion such as the fact that 11 million people in the UK are offline and are considered to have no digital skills, and of whom, 60% have no qualifications. Alongside the facts the briefing outlines how libraries and library staff contribute towards improving digital inclusion. If you’re looking for a handy summary on digital inclusion, digital literacy and library skills this briefing fits the bill.

If you want a more detailed report, the Society of Chief Librarians Wales produced ‘Addressing the Digital Divide’ which gives detailed examples of how public libraries are helping tackle digital exclusion, with lots of quotes by users and case studies.

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The daily lives of librarians

Engraving of a painting of a librarian from 16th century

Not a typical librarian. Image copyright free from Wikimedia Commons

The daily life of a librarian can be very varied. (And for ‘librarian’ I mean all staff who work in libraries, not just those who have library qualifications.) And not only that, but librarians working in different types of libraries can have hugely varied roles. We know from research that customers/users of libraries greatly value the library staff and they can transform the experience of those using libraries.

I have therefore been enjoying finding out more about these wonderful people [or is that just because I’m nosy?] through the blogs 23 Librarians (in Scotland) and now its new sister blog 23 Llyfrgellydd (in Wales). Scotland started it all off last year, and is now going for round two! There are also now similar blogs for England and Northern Ireland.

In Wales the lives of the 23 librarians are being posted generally on a Friday – there’s four there already (maybe more by the time you read this) and they discuss what they do, how they got to where they are, the type of skills needed etc.

Just reading the Welsh ones shows what an enthusiastic bunch of people work in libraries. If you’re a librarian working in Wales and fancy writing your daily life, contact Kristine Chapman to see if she has any slots left in the list of 23!

Posted in Academic libraries, Careers, England, Health libraries, Libraries, Northern Ireland, Public libraries, School libraries, Scotland, Wales, Workforce development | Leave a comment

Libraries: “vital role” in Wales says review

Members of the panel with the deputy minister

Members of the panel presenting the deputy minister with their review. From left: Prof. Hywel Roberts, library adviser; Clare Creaser, Loughborough University and Chair of the Expert Panel; Peter Gomer, Welsh Local Government Association representative; Ken Skates AM, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport; Steve Davies, Cardiff University.

“Public libraries will continue to play a vital role in the ongoing delivery of local and national priorities such as social inclusion, lifelong learning, literacy, digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and community cohesion.” (Paragraph 198) 

An independent expert panel, appointed by the previous minister responsible for libraries in Wales, has just published its review of Welsh public libraries today (Wed 22nd October 2014). The report is available online in English and Welsh and the Welsh Government press release is available on its website (includes quotes from the deputy minister). The press release says: “Speaking at the WLGA Library Seminar, organised in partnership with the Welsh Government, the Deputy Minister said the current management model for public libraries across Wales was not sustainable.”

The report lists 11 recommendations, and it has also taken into account the recommendations and findings from the National Assembly for Wales’ CELG committee report on public libraries which was published in late July 2014 (paragraphs 33-37). This is relevant to other libraries as CELG committee recommendation 1 is for an annual report, and the panel’s recommendation is for this to be a cross-library report (not just public libraries) as the Welsh library strategy is cross-sector.

The expert review’s report covers the current provision of public libraries in Wales and Welsh Government library policy, changes (proposed and actual) from 2014 onwards to local authority library services, and a chapter on future models of service delivery. There are lots of nuggets in the report and it considers a wide range of issues including hot topics of volunteers, the library workforce, income generation, community libraries, and legislation.

The foreword notes that whilst there is “broad agreement on provision, set out in the Fifth Framework of Welsh Public Library Standards” there remains the question of “how can this best be delivered to maintain the quality and relevance of the service for the people of Wales?” And, to achieve this by focusing on the “benefits for the user”, the statutory nature of the service, and, the current and future economic climate.

In the executive summary, paragraph five says “The review reaffirmed the importance of the public library service and that it will continue to make a positive impact to the life of individuals and their communities in the future. Libraries will play a vital role in the ongoing delivery of local and national priorities such as social inclusion, lifelong learning, literacy, digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and community cohesion.”

One of the key messages I read in the report is one of partnership, collaboration and joint working. Here in Wales we’ve always got on well together and hopefully the future for Welsh public libraries will see this continuing for the benefit of library users.

The recommendations for the deputy minister for libraries in Wales are a mix of immediate and longer term proposals. The executive summary notes that they will be subject to further discussion and will be the basis of the next library strategy for Wales post 2016. So, whatever your views on the recommendations, let CyMAL know (through me or other means).

The 11 recommendations are divided into three main areas and are copied in full below:

“Managing Change
I. The Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and local authorities should work with stakeholders to continue to develop good practice guidance which will assist local authorities and their public library services to consult on services. This should include training and promoting the effective use of the wealth of online resources available, including the National Principles of Public Engagement, Practitioners’ Manual for Public Engagement; Evaluation toolkit.

II. The Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association and local authorities should work with stakeholders to continue to develop good practice to assist local authorities to undertake Equality Impact Assessments. This will include training and promoting the use of the forthcoming Equality Impact Assessments Practice Hub being developed by the WLGA and NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights among public library services.

III. Proposed changes to public library services should only be progressed following the production of costed options which should be appraised according to:
a) the identification of appropriate timescales;
b) the completion of required impact assessments;
c) the opportunities for collaborative working with neighbouring authorities or other delivery partners.
This recommendation should be applied with immediate effect.

IV. CyMAL should take immediate steps to collect evidence and assess the impact of proposed changes to library service provision on the communities affected within the context of statutory requirements in Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC, Neath Port Talbot CBC and Blaenau Gwent CBC to inform future decisions by other local authorities. CyMAL should publish a report after an initial 3 month period of research and a full report after 12 months.

Strategic Improvements
V. Every public library service should develop an evidence and outcomes based strategy to begin in 2015-16, outlining how the library service contributes to local, regional and national priorities, which is published on the library service’s website. This document should be used as a strategic planning tool and regularly revised and updated in accordance with existing corporate practice. The library service strategy should be supported by a delivery plan outlining how the strategy will be implemented, including a Results Based Accountability scorecard assessment. An example of best practice is Caerphilly CBC’s five year development plan which is based on their 10 year strategy.

VI. CyMAL should work with staff, employers, SCL Wales, CILIP Cymru and trade unions to develop a comprehensive five-year workforce development plan to start in 2015-16 for public libraries to meet future staffing needs. It is the Panel’s view that volunteers should be provided with tailored training as a discrete group to meet their specific needs.

VII. Local authorities should recognise and respond to the need for more urgent and greater emphasis on collaborative schemes in their future strategies for public library provision, especially between and among local authority departments, across local authority boundaries, and with other public sector libraries. The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism should take into account, in deciding what constitutes a “comprehensive and efficient” service, the local authority’s record and commitment
in collaborative service delivery.

VIII. Community managed libraries (as outlined in para. 83) should not be considered as part of statutory library provision at the present time, subject to the findings of the research proposed in recommendation IV and IX. Data relating to libraries which are not part of statutory provision should not be included in returns under the Welsh Public Library Standards Framework.

IX. CyMAL should work with stakeholders to develop guidelines and appropriate documentation for partnership agreements setting out the minimum requirements which would enable a community supported library to be considered as part of an authority’s statutory provision. Relevant legal advice should be sourced as part of this process. The criteria for a community supported library to be included as part of the statutory provision should be developed by CyMAL by January 2015 for implementation from April 2015.

Future Models of Service Delivery
X. The Welsh Government should work with the WLGA and local authorities to progress the following strategic actions:
a) promote greater collaboration on a more extensive scale between authorities as an immediate priority;
b) develop public library services in-line with any future model for local government in Wales, as an ongoing commitment;
c) develop a regional or national consortium approach to the delivery of public library services in the medium-term (3-5 years), to be facilitated by a suitably funded organisation supported by the Welsh Government;
d) create a nationally co-ordinated library create a nationally co-ordinated library service for Wales as the ultimate goal.

XI. The Welsh Government should undertake the necessary legislative process which would make the Welsh Public Library Standards statutory guidance in relation to the duties imposed by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. The Welsh Government should also consider introducing new legislation to reflect the changing requirements for the public library to deliver services collaboratively in digital environments.”

Posted in Challenges, CyMAL, Governance, Libraries, Libraries Inspire, Public libraries, Publications, Research, Strategies, Wales, Welsh Public Library Standards | Tagged , | 2 Comments