Home Contents
Chapter One: Access to knowledge, imagination and learning Chapter Two: Listening to the people Chapter Three: Skills for the new librarian Chapter Four: Network infrastructure Chapter Five: Investment and income Chapter Six: Copyright and licensing issues Chapter Seven: Performance and evaluation Chapter Eight: Implementation - creating the momentum Chapter Nine: A summary of recommendations and costs Appendices

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 purpose.

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:
  1. enhancing education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and adults;

  2. supporting training, employment and business, to foster economic prosperity;

  3. 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:
  1. education and lifelong learning;

  2. citizens information and facilities for participation in society;

  3. business and the economy, training and employment;

  4. community history and community identity;

  5. 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 distance learning.

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:
  1. multimedia learning resources geared to national curricula;

  2. self-training packages for core skills;

  3. networked encyclopaedic databases;

  4. specialist resources on topics for leisure and learning;

  5. access to World Wide Web sites;

  6. networked electronic journals;

  7. digitised collections of images, film, and video and sound recordings;

  8. all UK public library catalogues;

  9. the digital collections of major libraries.

Scenario Two: Susan thinks about a career

Services in support of educational and lifelong learning will include:
  1. access to the National Grid for Learning;

  2. support in accessing and searching global resources;

  3. guidance on the reliability of databases;

  4. access to and participation in special-interest Internet communities;

  5. access to specialist libraries and collections, and to virtual visits to exhibitions;

  6. information and guidance on educational and learning opportunities;

  7. interactive communications with educational institutions;

  8. access to local education authorities and information on finance for learning, grants, awards, etc.;

  9. online application facilities;

  10. Ofsted reports on schools and colleges;

  11. access to the library network and networked resources from home, school or the workplace.

Citizens' information
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 people

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:
  1. information on local authority services - education, health, welfare and social services, planning and leisure, for example;

  2. information on local authority performance and budget deployment;

  3. information on local and regional development;

  4. online government publications and reports of proceedings;

  5. information on European government, legislation and citizens' rights;

  6. information on interest/action/pressure groups and voluntary organisations;

  7. legislation and legal publications;

  8. party-political information, policy and contacts.

Services in support of government and citizens will include:
  1. interactive communications with MPs and councillors;

  2. communications with interest/action/pressure groups;

  3. self-publishing facilities for citizens;

  4. the processing of routine transactions - for example, applications for planning permission, or for driving licences;

  5. teledemocracy - the canvassing of public opinion, electronic voting;

  6. access to specialist advice and counselling agencies;

  7. booking facilities for local services;

  8. diary access for meetings and advice bureaux.

Scenario Four: James expands his business

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 environment.

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:
  1. databases of company information, personnel and locations;

  2. databases of products and services;

  3. resources for market research;

  4. trade information on important import/export regulations and opportunities;

  5. data on countries and their markets;

  6. networked information on intellectual property - patents, designs, etc.;

  7. information on UK and European legislation;

  8. information on accreditation and qualifications;

  9. information and guidance on training opportunities;

  10. learning packages and opportunities through the University for Industry;

  11. consumer intelligence;

  12. 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 will include:
  1. interactive access to resources from office and home;

  2. video access to specialist information sources and expertise;

  3. partnership developments with chambers of commerce, business and regional development agencies, and TECs;

  4. UK and international connectivity to trade and industry bodies;

  5. supported facilities for the preparation of CVs and applications;

  6. access to local and national consumer organisations;

  7. access to environmental services and trading standards officers;

  8. information and employment conditions and job opportunities.

Scenario Five: The Patels go into computers

Community history
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 community's self-image.

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 culture.

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:
  1. unique local collections networked nationally;

  2. digitised collections of archives such as records of births, marriages and deaths, and local newspapers;

  3. digitised collections of maps and photographs of streets, villages, towns and cities;

  4. catalogues of local-history libraries across the world;

  5. catalogues of public record offices;

  6. visits to virtual social-history exhibitions in museums and galleries.

Services in support of community history will include:
  1. interactive communications with specialist librarians and archivists;

  2. use of networked learning packages related to genealogy and family history;

  3. access to genealogy research services;

  4. community publishing of personal stories and local histories;

  5. the capacity to contact and participate in community history societies;

  6. 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:
  1. the unique visual and cultural assets of the national libraries;

  2. the same in regard to the holdings of other significant libraries and of museums and galleries;

  3. the ability to bring together related material from separate collections;

  4. virtual visits to exhibitions and special programmes in museums, galleries and centres of culture;

  5. transmissions in video of film, theatre and musical productions;

  6. digitised collections of archives and record offices;

  7. interactive learning resources on arts, culture and the media;

  8. 'what's on' information in the arts and heritage.

Services in support of the National Digital Library will include:
  1. informed, guided tours of virtual exhibitions;

  2. access to supported virtual visits to libraries, records offices, museums and galleries;

  3. interactive access to expertise;

  4. 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 development:
  1. commercial publications;

  2. government and public information;

  3. new electronic library resources;

  4. 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 following areas:

Central purchasing

The agency will advise on:
  1. licensing and purchasing issues in the area of electronic publishing and acquisition of resources and the networking of those resources through UK public libraries;

  2. negotiating agreements and financial transactions;

  3. 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 that period.

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.

Costing summary

£ million
Central purchasing of commercial publications 2.0
UK consortia purchasing team 0.3
Government and public information services 2.0
UK public library resources 6.0
Digitisation programme 6.0
Exploiting the Internet 0.6
Common information framework 0.1

Total per year 17.0

Scenario 1 Zahir
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 in India.
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 the screen.
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.

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Scenario 2 Susan
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.

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Scenario 3 Linda
consults the people

I am a ward councillor for a large rural farming community. With public-spending constraints, we are faced with tough decisions.
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 concerns.
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.

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Scenario 4 James
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 to him.

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Scenario 5 The Patels
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.

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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 the project.
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.

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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. London:HMSO.

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.

Home Contents
Chapter One: Access to knowledge, imagination and learning Chapter Two: Listening to the people Chapter Three: Skills for the new librarian Chapter Four: Network infrastructure Chapter Five: Investment and income Chapter Six: Copyright and licensing issues Chapter Seven: Performance and evaluation Chapter Eight: Implementation - creating the momentum Chapter Nine: A summary of recommendations and costs Appendices

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