Everyone could have access to the Internet if plans to instal a high-tech network linking libraries across the country comes to fruition, Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said today.
Mr Smith was referring to a report from the Library and Information Commission which sets out a plan to take libraries into the 21st century. The report, "New Library: The Peoples Network" argues for an updated, useful and accessible public library service as the hub of community life.
Mr Smith said:
"Giving everyone access to information technology is probably the single most important issue facing public libraries today. This report is a very significant document for our libraries. It represents a defining moment for the service. The Prime Minister and I will be drawing up plans to bring it to fruition by imaginative use of both private and public sources of funding.
"Last week the Governments consultation paper on the National Grid for Learning was launched. It aims to create a network between schools, colleges, universities, libraries and eventually museums and galleries too.
"Public libraries will be a crucial part of the National Grid. Libraries, after all, are colleges for ordinary people. And ensuring access to new technology - and the wealth of information and education it can bring - through the library service means access for all, not just the few. Its the best possible way to avoid creating a society of information haves and have-nots.
"Matthew Evans, Chairman of the Library and Information Commission, and his team have contributed hard work, commitment and ideas in producing an important and comprehensive strategic document. This report should be read by everyone involved in the library service.
"The issues raised affect Government Departments responsible for education, trade and industry, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as my own. We recognise there are shared interests at stake and that co-operation and co-ordination within Whitehall is essential.
"Of course, there is a large bill attached to delivering the reports proposals - beyond the ability of any one body to provide. The key to success may well lie in developing partnerships between central Government, local authorities and the private sector.
"The Prime Minister has asked me to report to him on the scope for implementing these proposals and I aim to publish the Governments response early next year.
"IT, in whatever form, will complement - but never replace - the book at the heart of the public library service. This report redefines the way in which libraries deliver their services. It shows how we can enhance their traditional role, with benefits for all."
Copies of the report have been circulated to every local authority and library authority. Media may obtain copies from the Library and Information Commission, 2 Sheraton Street, London, W1V 4BH (tel: 0171 411 0059). The report is available to others from the same number, price £25 post free. The full text of the report is available on the Internet at:
Press Enquiries: 0171 211 6267
(Out of Hours Telephone Pager No: 01399 1133)
(Ask for Pager No: 751153)
Public Enquiries: 0171 211 6200
DCMS Press release 15th October 1997
Report converted to HTML and hosted by
on behalf of the Library and Information Commission.
Email technical queries on this website to firstname.lastname@example.org