The Prime Minister published on the Internet today a strategy to enable Britain to increase its prosperity and quality of life in the Information Age. A key element is the Government's plan to invest in an IT-based public library network. Almost all public libraries will be connected to the National Grid for Learning by the year 2002. The Government's announcement is in line with the Library and Information Commission's vision set out in its report for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), New Library: The People's Network.
The Library and Information Commission (LIC) welcomes the Government's approach, particularly its recognition of the wider role libraries can play in supporting learning and enabling people to participate in the Information Society. Libraries will provide accessible information services for citizens and businesses throughout the UK. They will provide access to the Internet, training for novice users of information and communications technology and will develop the resources people need in their learning activities.
Matthew Evans, Chairman of the Library and Information Commission said:
'I am delighted that the real contribution that libraries can make to the quality of life for individuals, communities and businesses has been recognised. As a way to enhance learning, democratic participation and economic advancement in the Information Age, the new library, and the new librarian, has a key role to play'
The Library and Information Commission welcomes its new role in developing an implementation strategy for a revitalised public library service. Work is already underway to establish the Public Libraries Implementation Committee, which will be chaired by Matthew Evans. The Committee will ensure that a clear direction is maintained.
The LIC is well placed to advise the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) on priorities for the creation of new electronic resources. Bids for the NOF will come from the libraries, museums and education sectors. The LIC will ensure that its recommendations reflect the priorities of each sector. It will also co-ordinate the library sector's interests in IT training, working closely with the Teacher Training Authority (TTA).
Adequate funding must be made available, if success is to be achieved in such a short time. The LIC welcomes the Government's commitment to tackle the problem of the cost of the libraries network by developing partnerships and new funding arrangements. OFTEL and the telecommunications industry and local authorities have much to contribute in achieving the vision. A continued strong steer from Government will be essential if rapid progress is to be made.
The next few months will see the emergence of a plan for action that will radically improve the quality of library services. It will open the library up to the public in ways that are innovative, imaginative and which will make a real difference to the lives of the people and businesses that are the heart of the community.
New Library: The People's Network was published in October 1997. It is available from the Library and Information Commission (0171 411 0059) or at www.ukoln.ac.uk/services/lic/newlibrary. The LIC was established in 1995 by DCMS to be a national focus of expertise in the field of library and information services.
The Government's response can be found on the DCMS web site. The Prime Minister's announcement, Our Information Age, is available on the No.10 web site.
Library and Information Commission Press release 16th April 1998
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