1 Access to knowledge,
imagination & learning
- The UK Public Library Network will have enormous potential to deliver
resources for information and learning to citizens across the whole
country, through 4,200 static library sites and other library outlets.
- Access to the network will also allow every citizen to communicate
interactively between libraries, with museums, galleries and the media,
with local and national government, with public services, and with
agencies in the voluntary and private sectors. Moreover, there will also
be the capability for communication within and between communities,
whether they be local or global, founded on geography or on a common
- Public libraries are already used by 58 per cent of the population.
They are a first stop for information, they are widely used by children
and young people as an adjunct to formal learning, and their reputation
for supporting the knowledge-seeker is unparalleled. Their unique
combination of resources, services and personal support attracts some
1.3 million visitors every working day, and 10 million users visit
frequently - at least once a fortnight. Library staff respond to over 50
million enquiries each year, on a universal range of topics.
- In the information society, making information and communication
networks accessible to every citizen will be vital to generate the
energy for success. In exploiting new technologies through the networked
library, priority must be given to:
- enhancing education and lifelong learning opportunities for children
- supporting training, employment and business, to foster economic
- nurturing social cohesion through fostering a politically and
culturally informed society.
- The new and growing range of resources and facilities which
networking can deliver, combined with the existing assets of the public
library system, will form the core of a powerhouse of knowledge,
enabling the smallest and most isolated local library to offer the same
range, depth and quality of information as a large centra central
library, providing equal access to the global and the local. An outline
of what this will mean in terms of content - resources for knowledge,
imagination and learning - and services - facilities and support offered
- is given below.
- The principal strands of content and services which will pervade the
networked public library are:
- education and lifelong learning;
- citizens information and facilities for participation in society;
- business and the economy, training and employment;
- community history and community identity;
- the National Digital Library.
- Throughout this chapter and elsewhere in the report a series of
scenarios illustrates the potential of the UK Public Library Network to
meet people's needs in the digital age. These scenarios are fictitious,
but they are based on situations in which libraries are often called
upon for help, and they present solutions which will be available only
through a networked library - one that is in touch with all areas of the
UK and the world.
Education and lifelong learning
- Public libraries complement formal education provision by providing a
resource base and a platform for people of all ages to participate in
lifelong learning. They will therefore form an integral part of the
National Grid for Learning and the Unversity for Industry, and
implementation of the network should consider this a priority. Helping
young people learn how to is an essential function of the public
library. Support for children and young people in acquiring basic
skills, building their personal knowledge-base, and developing
competence in information searching and analysis will complement the
formal learning in their place of study.
- Rich multimedia resources provided after school, in a safe,
culturally creative environment, will help overcome the inequality of
opportunity experienced by those who do not have access to new
technology at home. Several studies have indicated that children can
benefit both educationally and socially from having well-managed access
to various forms of information and communication technology (ICT) from
an early age (Denham, 1997). The early introduction to independent
learning in the library will promote a more rounded education, while
also imparting the skills needed to learn independently in later years.
- The 1995 report Investing in Children declared that
The public library has a duty to meet children's need and desire for
information in a range of media as well as books. It should provide
information in appropriate media and formats, and whatever technology is
needed to deliver them ... [public libraries have] to recognise that
children are becoming increasingly computer literate and have high
expectations regarding the use of computers in libraries and instant
personal access to information (LISC(E), 1995, pp. vii, 9).
- To date, however, as a survey it quotes discovered:
public libraries in Britain have done little to equip young people for a
life in which the computer is a major element in learning, work and
recreation. (Lonsdale and Wheatley, 1992; LISC(E), 1995, p. 62)
- Networked resources also offer opportunities for adults to follow a
personal learning path, whether in support of a career or an individual
interest. In partnership with schools, colleges and universities, the
public library will allow flexibility of study in both time and place.
- The urge to learn is a distinguishing feature of the human mind.
Knowledge is power - and universal access to information is a hallmark
of freedom in a democracy but knowledge is also discovery, excitement,
personal growth and self-confidence.
- The use of existing services demonstrates that there is no limit to
the type of information which people seek every day in libraries. The
'Saturday syndrome' sees libraries overflowing with users whose pursuit
is personal, intense and determined. People of all ages and backgrounds
reinforce a general interest in the arts or sciences, seek out the
remote truths of their family history, catch up on current affairs, or
search for the answer that will clinch a prize. Children pursue hobbies,
and the more they do so the more likely they are to be in the library as
adults, ably feeding a natural curiosity. Throughout the week the phones
ring for a fact, a statistic, a name, an address, an illustration, or
'If I sing a tune can you tell me the title?'
Scenario One: Zahir Learns to Read
- Digital communications in the information society will bring new
resources in unprecedented quantity, making available the equivalent of
millions of pages of words and pictures. The library as an entry point
to the information superhighway will bring unprecedented opportunities
to learn for leisure, to find out for fun, and to experience the
personal fulfilment of discovery.
- Through the networked public library, existing library resources will
be newly opened up to more people. The catalogues of public library
collections currently accessible only locally will be linked to create a
UK-wide library system. This rich collective resource will be available
at any local library. Eventually, catalogues will be enhanced with
requesting systems so that remote users can locate and order the items
they need. Cross-sectoral access (public/FE/HE) will introduce the
flexibility of access to resources inherent in the concepts of open and
- Such a wealth of resources will make digital discovery an awesome and
exciting experience, but many people will need the support of a trusted
and accountable intermediary - not only in accessing but also in
interpreting and evaluating what is available. With library staff
providing this support, the unique role of the library as 'the people's
university' will be immeasurably enhanced.
- The accessibility of public libraries, enhanced by networking
technologies, will ensure that people with mobility problems will find
it easy to exploit the new opportunities. At the same time, as systems
develop on the back of current research, services will be adapted for
use by people with impaired sight or hearing. People with disabilities
have the same desires to find out and learn as others: the information
society must not be one in which they experience exclusion.
- In this area, content to be delivered will include:
- multimedia learning resources geared to national curricula;
- self-training packages for core skills;
- networked encyclopaedic databases;
- specialist resources on topics for leisure and learning;
- access to World Wide Web sites;
- networked electronic journals;
- digitised collections of images, film, and video and sound
- all UK public library catalogues;
- the digital collections of major libraries.
Scenario Two: Susan thinks about a career
- Services in support of educational and lifelong learning will
- access to the National Grid for Learning;
- support in accessing and searching global resources;
- guidance on the reliability of databases;
- access to and participation in special-interest Internet communities;
- access to specialist libraries and collections, and to virtual visits
- information and guidance on educational and learning opportunities;
- interactive communications with educational institutions;
- access to local education authorities and information on finance for
learning, grants, awards, etc.;
- online application facilities;
- Ofsted reports on schools and colleges;
- access to the library network and networked resources from home,
school or the workplace.
and involvement in society
- The UK Public Library Network will also be a gateway for citizen
communications - an opening to the networked society which will promote
a healthy democracy and social cohesion.
- In recent times disillusion with political, legal and social
institutions has generated an atmosphere of cynicism and alienation.
People - particularly young people - have distanced themselves from a
system which they see as irrelevant to their circumstances. A public
library network of access points, open to every citizen, for the
delivery of information on government and government services - both
local and UK-wide - and, especially, for enabling interactive
communications with government and others, will help bring a sense of
belonging and renew the potential for participation in society.
- Such a network will stimulate the production of digital information
and interactive services for citizens which has already been explored by
some government departments and local authorities. Many public agencies
now have Internet Web sites; these will be further developed to meet the
increased expectation of citizens using the library network.
- Easier two-way transfer of information and documentation between
people and providers will also allow faster and more efficient routine
transactions with government and public services, leaving more time for
citizen and public servant to interact face to face on individual issues
of greater sensitivity. For example, government.direct
sets out a prospectus for the delivery, electronically, of central
government services across the country, with public libraries as one
channel of access. These services include the collection of taxes,
granting of licences and administration of regulations.
Scenario Three: Linda consults the
- A healthy society must also communicate with itself, and the UK
Public Library Network will not only provide access to the centres of
administration but will enable people to interact with all manner of
voluntary organisations and interest groups. Individuals will be able to
become better informed and to promote their views in the interests of
wider community development. In addition, local government will be able
to use the network to consult residents affected by local issues of
policy, planning and prioritisation.
- When citizens are openly and freely in communication with government,
democracy can be said to have 'grown up'. Those groups generally
regarded as 'minorities' are, together, the majority; ensuring
improved access for those with a minority or special interest will also
enhance the quality of life for the whole of society.
- In this area, content to be delivered will include:
- information on local authority services - education, health, welfare
and social services, planning and leisure, for example;
- information on local authority performance and budget deployment;
- information on local and regional development;
- online government publications and reports of proceedings;
- information on European government, legislation and citizens' rights;
- information on interest/action/pressure groups and voluntary
- legislation and legal publications;
- party-political information, policy and contacts.
- Services in support of government and citizens will include:
- interactive communications with MPs and councillors;
- communications with interest/action/pressure groups;
- self-publishing facilities for citizens;
- the processing of routine transactions - for example, applications
for planning permission, or for driving licences;
- teledemocracy - the canvassing of public opinion, electronic voting;
- access to specialist advice and counselling agencies;
- booking facilities for local services;
- diary access for meetings and advice bureaux.
Scenario Four: James expands his
Business and the economy,
training and employment
- The successful business already exploits information as an
organisational resource. However, the majority of businesses in the UK
are small and medium-sized enterprises - around 73 per cent of companies
employ fewer than ten people - and such companies, and the 3 million
self-employed, do not have the capacity to employ information
specialists or to acquire expensive collections of data to inform their
marketing and development activities.
- Support agencies such as chambers of commerce, business development
agencies and trade associations will increasingly network to maximise
their effectiveness. The Programme for Business, launched in February
1996, aims to ensure that firms in all sectors can improve their
effectiveness through effective and innovative uses of ICT. Public
libraries - especially the major city libraries - have variously
developed enormous print-based resources to support business; the UK
Public Library Network will allow still larger amounts of information to
be available to even the smallest and most remote local library through
access to remote databases on trade and commerce. The technology will
allow greater cooperation to inform and support the UK's industrial,
commercial and financial enterprise.
- The library has always been a resource for learning, and has a
specially important role to play in learning in order to update or
acquire job skills. A recent DTI study revealed that 52 per cent of UK
companies think their employees have insufficient training in ICT, but
at the same time 35 per cent of UK companies give no ICT training at
all. As part of a return-to-work plan, skills development or reskilling
for a different job, the UK Public Library Network will provide
information and learning resources for independent study in a supported
- It will also provide information on training and job opportunities.
Some 6.5 million people - one fifth of the population of working age -
go through a change in employment situation each year. In this
environment, business information becomes employment information.
- Citizens are also consumers, and thus the ultimate generators of
national wealth. The consumer needs ready and reliable access to
information on products, services and producers, as well as access to
legal and commercial information - all of which the UK Public Library
Network will provide. The IT for All initiative aims to raise awareness
of ICT, provide access, and develop the ICT skills of individual
citizens, and specifically adults.
- In this area, content to be delivered will include:
- databases of company information, personnel and locations;
- databases of products and services;
- resources for market research;
- trade information on important import/export regulations and
- data on countries and their markets;
- networked information on intellectual property - patents, designs,
- information on UK and European legislation;
- information on accreditation and qualifications;
- information and guidance on training opportunities;
- learning packages and opportunities through the University for
- consumer intelligence;
- the facilities for small and medium - sized enterprises in particular
to conduct business with government electronically.
- Services in support of business, the economy, training and employment
- interactive access to resources from office and home;
- video access to specialist information sources and expertise;
- partnership developments with chambers of commerce, business and
regional development agencies, and TECs;
- UK and international connectivity to trade and industry bodies;
- supported facilities for the preparation of CVs and applications;
- access to local and national consumer organisations;
- access to environmental services and trading standards officers;
- information and employment conditions and job opportunities.
Scenario Five: The Patels go into
and community identity
- An area in which libraries support both the acquisition of knowledge
and a sense of community is that of community history. Through a unique
tradition of storing archives, records, maps, photographs and film,
libraries have long been custodians of the people's identity and the
- Use of these resources is already an area of expansion in library
usage. Local history - and especially sight of primary sources - is a
feature of the national curriculum. Learning is generated out of a
child's natural curiosity about grandparents' childhood; descendants of
emigrants across the world, as well as adopted and fostered children,
regularly and increasingly seek to uncover their roots. Access to global
networks will help enormously in meeting this profound natural need to
learn about their roots by giving minority communities access to their
countries of origin. This is just one area in which, through public
libraries, the peoples of the UK will increasingly experience the
cultural diversity of our society and the rich fabric of global
Harriet looks to the future - by
discovering her past
- In local history above all, libraries house unique collections.
Digital technologies will allow such collections - which are largely
paper-based - to be converted into new formats. This will make these
resources more widely accessible, and their availability in digital form
will facilitate the security and conservation of the original, often
inherently valuable, documents.
- In this area, content to be delivered will include:
- unique local collections networked nationally;
- digitised collections of archives such as records of births,
marriages and deaths, and local newspapers;
- digitised collections of maps and photographs of streets, villages,
towns and cities;
- catalogues of local-history libraries across the world;
- catalogues of public record offices;
- visits to virtual social-history exhibitions in museums and
- Services in support of community history will include:
- interactive communications with specialist librarians and archivists;
- use of networked learning packages related to genealogy and family
- access to genealogy research services;
- community publishing of personal stories and local histories;
- the capacity to contact and participate in community history
- e-mail links to newspapers (a common source of information).
The National Digital Library
- Inherent within the capability of networking technologies is the
capacity to reconstitute the visual into the virtual and to deliver it
from its custodial home to the widest community in local libraries - and
indeed elsewhere. The significant collections in public libraries -
photographs, rare books, maps - as well as their sister collections in
museums and galleries, will be converted to create online collections
which are accessible not only to researchers but to all citizens,
supporting cultural awareness and identity.
- More imaginatively, multimedia exhibitions - images, narrative,
background - which can be visited on-screen in local libraries will give
everyone the opportunity for the 'guided tour' as opposed to the
'passive walkabout'. In addition to the value of giving the tax-payer
greater direct access to publicly funded collections, such technology
will also allow the development of new approaches to the visual arts and
their promotion; projected through networks to an international
audience, this will create the ultimate marketing tool in promoting the
UK's cultural heritage to the peoples of the world. This will foster and
support the tourism industry.
- In this area, content to be delivered will include:
- the unique visual and cultural assets of the national libraries;
- the same in regard to the holdings of other significant libraries and
of museums and galleries;
- the ability to bring together related material from separate
- virtual visits to exhibitions and special programmes in museums,
galleries and centres of culture;
- transmissions in video of film, theatre and musical productions;
- digitised collections of archives and record offices;
- interactive learning resources on arts, culture and the media;
- 'what's on' information in the arts and heritage.
- Services in support of the National Digital Library will include:
- informed, guided tours of virtual exhibitions;
- access to supported virtual visits to libraries, records offices,
museums and galleries;
- interactive access to expertise;
- partnership networks with advice and information specialists within
or outside the public library sector.
Developing the libraries' role
- Public libraries have already demonstrated their capacity to guide
beginners in using information and communication technologies and to
help individuals develop their 'computeracy'. The BBC's 'Computers Don't
Bite' campaign has been promoted through and supported by libraries
across the land with both printed information and taster sessions in an
independent anxiety-free environment.
- Integral to public library networking will be provision for
training/learning in the new technology. At an introductory level this
may be provided by library staff, who will encounter the uninitiated on
a daily basis, but learning organisations and private companies will be
enthusiastic to collaborate with library service providers in developing
strategies for public training/learning provision.
- As trusted intermediaries, public libraries can span the present and
the technological future, ensuring no citizen is left behind, providing
a safety net against alienation and social exclusion from technological
advance - a route to universal access and opportunity.
The development of resources for the UK Public Library Network
- Networking public libraries will take the UK's public library system
through a period of substantial change into the new era of the
information society. During the transition years, and for the
foreseeable future in some areas, the demand for books and other
non-networked resources will continue; meanwhile a UK-wide lead and
financial support will be necessary to generate the range of electronic
resources and services which users will expect of their networked local
library. This will involve the following areas of content and service
- commercial publications;
- government and public information;
- new electronic library resources;
- Internet access.
- The range of resources and services envisaged will depend on a
UK-wide initiative involving unprecedented collaboration, planning and
investment, and we recommend that an agency be established to direct and
manage the development process. The agency's role would cover the
- The agency will advise on:
- licensing and purchasing issues in the area of electronic publishing
and acquisition of resources and the networking of those resources
through UK public libraries;
- negotiating agreements and financial transactions;
- service provision - the online mounting of data services.
- This operation alone will require a dedicated team to undertake the
complex and time-consuming negotiations involved in securing agreement
to make commercial resources available on the network.
- A fund of £2 million per year for five years is recommended for
the purchase or licensing of commercially published electronic
resources, supported by a UK consortia purchasing team with salary and
running costs of £300,000 per year.
Government and public information services
- Several pilot projects to develop services in this area have been
undertaken (government.direct, and various projects by
local authorities and regional partnerships), but further development is
needed to continue this process through to the point of delivery. A
development fund of £2 million per year for five years is proposed
to enable this transition to be completed. Subsequently the providers
(government, local authorities, public bodies, etc.) will be responsible
for funding their own networked information and services as such
activity increasingly becomes the norm.
Creating the UK's public library resource
- New electronic resources will have to be developed to deliver the
information, learning and cultural benefits envisaged in the plan. These
will cover areas such as community information; business, economic and
training information; community and family history resources; a UK-wide
enquiries network within libraries; and so on. The agency would
commission the development of such resources from appropriate bodies,
with funding recommended at a level of £30 million over five years.
Again, the future of this process should be reviewed towards the end of
- The National Digital Library envisaged in the plan will depend on the
conversion of special and rare collections into digital format. A major
project to identify and prioritise appropriate collections of items will
be needed; it should look across all sectors to locate opportunities for
partnership with collections in museums, galleries and the national
libraries. Funding of £30 million over five years will be required
to realise the creation of this resource.
Exploiting the Internet
- A range of services will exist to allow library users to discover
both free and commercial resources on the Internet. We recommend that £3
million be provided over the first five years of the programme, to
support public libraries in developing controlled gateways to
high-quality Internet resources in specific subject areas.
A common information framework
- It is important that all development work proceeds within a common
framework of information standards and best practice. The British
Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher
Education Funding Council are investigating the establishment of a
National Agency for Resource Discovery to advise the library community
in this area. A scoping study by David Kay of Fretwell Downing
Informatics Ltd and Professor Peter Brophy of the Centre for Research in
Library and Information Management at the University of Central
Lancashire has been presented to the BL and JISC for their
consideration. We recommend that this agency be supported up to £100,000
per year, so that its work can be extended to assist the development of
networking in UK public libraries.
- In undertaking this work, the agency will need to discuss widely the
creation of content and licensing arrangements, with the library
community and with service and content providers.
|Central purchasing of commercial publications
|UK consortia purchasing team
|Government and public information services
|UK public library resources
|Exploiting the Internet
|Common information framework
|Total per year
learns to read
Zahir is five years old, and his grandmother brings
him to the local library. He enjoys the reading books in school, but he
enjoys even more the stories his grandmother tells him - about growing up
The library has books with lots of pictures and
writing in Punjabi and English telling the same story. Zahir can also use
the touch-screen library computer to see the insides of other books and
choose to read them in English or Punjabi. The reader's voice is friendly,
and Zahir is getting good at guessing the next words and playing the
quizzes there too.
When he has read a book he really enjoys, he races to
the computer to write what he thinks of it. Anyone else looking up that
book can see what he has written. His younger sister speaks her views of
the picture-books she likes, and the computer makes her words appear on
Although Zahir comes to the weekly story-time, he also
enjoys his own story-time on every visit by seeing his favourite writers
reading their own books on videos from the National Centre for Children's
Books at Newcastle. He likes to watch the video of Shirley Hughes drawing
Dogger, the hero of his favourite book when he was four.
There is a special game he plays with his two friends
in which they can use the computer to make up a story of their own with
different endings and then print it out. If they get stuck on a word, the
dictionary helps - sometimes with a picture or a moving image of what they
are trying to describe.
When he brings his books back, the librarian suggests
other books he might enjoy, as the library has a list of all the ones he
has borrowed before and written something good about. He prefers to choose
his own, though, and has enjoyed trying to read a really long book on
dinosaurs. When he brings it back on Sunday afternoon, the lady gives him
a list of stories about dinosaurs - he chooses the ones about Dilly the
Dinosaur, as someone his age who lives in the Punjab thought it was very
good - and she also tells his grandmother about the Dinamites exhibition
that is on this week. His grandmother promises to take him there, and
tells him he can visit it again on the CD-rom in the library.
Back to main text
thinks about a career
I'm fourteen years old, and starting to think what I
want to do when I leave school. Looking in my local library for a good
read, I discovered they could help me with careers advice. Through their
computer, I was able to ask about careers in engineering from something
called the National Learning Network. I also got fifteen minutes' free
advice from the Careers Guidance Centre twelve miles away, and I paid for
another half an hour with my smartcard. I found out what qualifications
I'd need and where I could study.
Leeds University looked interesting, so I visited its
Web site and got a virtual tour of the campus, including the low-down on
what it was really like from students there now.
Obviously I wanted to know what I would be likely to
earn, and what the career prospects are like. The business information
librarian helped me to pick out four local companies, and I filled in
their on-screen forms for more information. They e-mailed me their salary
listings and current vacancies straightaway. But do women actually work in
engineering? An e-mail to the Equal Opportunities Commission gave me some
statistics, which I printed out. It seems more and more women are making
it in this field.
The library's video archive had a careers section, and
I watched several high-powered women talking about how they'd got to where
they are today. Then I joined the special-interest bulletin-board for
Women in Engineering at the student rate.
I finished by looking at the online UCAS application -
though it'll be a few more years before I'm ready to fill it in.
Back to main text
consults the people
I am a ward councillor for a large rural farming
community. With public-spending constraints, we are faced with tough
For some time, I've used the local library for my
surgeries - I'm always surprised at how many people use it, and I get a
lot of e-mails from there. The library staff are really helpful and
encouraging - especially to older people who find the technology
frightening. Now it seems sensible to move the library into the local
school, to save money. But what will my constituents think?
I've had meetings with community groups at the library
- it's tough going, with very outspoken views. However, I'm well informed:
the library has distributed the leaflet with our proposals, but also has
gathered responses from a write-back form on the Internet, so I've got a
good idea what everyone thinks - and not just the vocal minority. I can
also weight the views of local people; those in other areas have also
commented, but they won't be using the combined facility. The chief
librarian has also been involved, using the video link to answer people's
questions about the proposals directly, and a 'Your questions answered'
file is kept up to date on the library system, so I can see people's
We conducted an electronic referendum yesterday and
gathered all the votes from my community, who were well informed about the
pros and cons. We go ahead with the combined library and school, and I and
my fellow ward councillors have agreeed to protect Saturday and Sunday
afternoon opening from the savings.
The whole thing has gone so well - I feel confident
we've made the right decision, and that everyone has taken part and
understands the issues and the tough choices. My colleagues in Planning
are impressed, and the chair wants to use the process for a consultation
on a major development in another rural area. He may not get the support
he wants, but at least the response will be more reliable and
comprehensive than just hearing the loudest voices.
Back to main text
expands his business
James Greaves, forty-seven, employs thirty people
making castings for the pumping industry. Aware that his business could be
run better, he goes to the library with a general need for information
about how he might find more customers for his products and how he could
improve his operations.
James finds the librarian really helpful, telling him
about the free help he can get from Business Link, who will assess his
business with him. He makes an appointment with an adviser for next week,
but he wants to make a start now, on his own.
The BBC online self-assessment programme called Fit
for Business is great - really good at showing him his strengths and
weaknesses. He sees the needs to market his products more effectively and
develop his own management skills, and to find out how to export his
products abroad. The BBC Education Web site tells him about the Business
and Work Hour on the BBC2 Learning Zone, especially for SMEs - small and
medium-sized enterprises, which James realises he is.
James samples part of the programme online, and finds
it really interesting to see and hear someone like him talking about how
they reached new markets and whom they contacted to help them. He then
finds the AGORA Web site, coordinated in the UK by the BBC, which links
businesses like his across Europe, and gets the details of some companies
which are likely customers for his products. The librarian suggests that
James look at the DTI site, where he finds useful information on what he
needs to do to export his products to Europe - he'll ask more about that
next week, when he meets the business adviser.
James decides there's much more to learn than he
thought, and he becomes a regular visitor on Saturday afternoons, keeping
up to date to get an edge over his competitors, and using the BBC Alert
database to see what broadcasting is in the pipeline that will be useful
Back to main text
go into computers
Mr Patel has run a successful small
newsagent/supermarket for several years, opening long hours and stocking a
wide range of goods, including lunchtime food for the small but loyal
nearby office community. Three years ago he bought the next-door building
to sell more foods, but there is still some redundant space above the shop
where at present his daughter, Amy, is assembling a mail-order PC that she
bought in component form.
Amy Patel enjoys this, and thinks there could be scope
for a business putting together custom-specification PCs. Her father
agrees that there might be an opportunity - certainly there is no nearby
computer shop - but he is concerned about expanding into new markets. What
are the trends in PC sales? How many custom-assembled PCs are sold against
off-the-shelf systems? What kind of PC sale is more profitable? How and
where could he advertise a PC shop?
On a trip to the library with his grandchildren, he
sees a poster advertising a half-day introduction to the library's
Business Support Service. It's free, so he decides to take off time from
the shop and go. He finds it answers a lot of the questions he had, and he
discovers there's a dial-in service available on subscription, with an
online enquiry service and an easy-to-use gateway to other relevant
information sites - including the access point for the University for
Industry. The cost of his subscription includes a consultation to design a
business development course suited to his exact needs, drawn from courses
across the country.
Dialling in from the planned PC centre above the shop,
the Patels are able to get information at crucial times in their business
planning process. Amy is doing courses on advanced PC engineering,
direct-mail marketing, customer management, and health and safety. Most of
them she does from home, but she enjoys going to the library for Learning
Circle sessions and to pick up additional information. What particularly
impresses the Patels is the contribution to the courses from people
working in industry.
PaTech has now been trading for six months, and Amy
Patel has already had to hire a student to help her process orders.
Back to main text
Scenario 6 Harriet
looks to the future
- by discovering her past
Harriet Hardcastle, fifty-seven, listens to Radio 5
Live and hears about a major Millennium local history project. She's very
interested in the way her town has developed and changed over the years,
and she hears that her library will be the main local centre involved in
When she arrives, the librarian knows all about it and
shows her to a terminal. She has never used a computer, but soon gets the
hang of things. She explores the recent history of the town, looking at
maps and seeing photographs of how it has changed. She picks a photo and
sends it as a Webcard to her daughter in Australia. There is also a school
project, which is fascinating, and she enjoys dipping into the recordings
of people of all ages talking about living in the town then and now.
She is invited to contribute a three-minute recording
into the computer, but she'll do that next time: first she wants to find
out more. When she had typed in her name, a list of other Hardcastles
associated with the town had come up on the screen - one of them a distant
relative killed in action in the First World War.
This is really getting interesting. Using a
combination of original archive materials, including photographs and the
archive footage of programmes about the Great War from the BBC, she traces
the development of the war and finds out about the circumstances that led
to Private Hardcastle's death. The library catalogue shows her there is a
special collection on the Great War at the local university, and she can
use her library card as identification to go there and look at things.
She see some programmes coming up on tracing your
family tree, and discovers she can come to a beginners session at the
library that week, run by the local family history society.
She is fascinated by this local family connection with
world events, and leaves with books on the First World War and some
information she has printed out from the computer, as well as an audiobook
of letters from the trenches. She is inspired to involve her grandchildren
in all this, and sees that the archive of twentieth-century oral history
will be a good beginning - they love listening to stories, and these will
be real ones.
Back to main text
Denham, Debbie (1997). 'Children and IT in public libraries', Youth
Library Review, 23 (spring).
LISC(E) (1995). Library and Information Services Council (England), Investing
in Children: The Future of Library Services for Children and Young People.
Lonsdale, Ray, and Wheatley, Alan (1992). 'The provision of computer
material and services to young people by British public libraries', Journal
of Librarianship, 24(2), June, pp.87-98.
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