Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from guest author, director of the Ilona Kish, Director of the Public Libraries 2020 Program in Europe.
When you think of your local library, you may recall the memory of getting lost in a good book , or even using a computer for the first time. Today people think of computers and smartphones as ubiquitous–always charged and at their fingertips. But for too many, computers are—to excuse a librarian’s pun—a closed book. For those unable to access or use a computer or smartphone–a whole world is shut off, limiting their access to information and opportunities.
Particularly in Europe, where 44 percent of Europeans lack basic digital skills, libraries are key to providing local tools and programs that teach those foundational skills. To help libraries provide welcoming spaces where people feel safe to learn, Public Libraries 2020 has partnered with Grow with Google in Europe, an initiative that has already helped over 4 million people Europeans grow their skills, and this year further pledged to help 1 million Europeans to find a job or grow their business by 2020.
Now, the Public Libraries 2020/Grow with Google partnership will help Europeans, from students to pensioners learn about digital skills, online safety and computer science. The digital toolkit titled “Libraries Lead with Digital” features ideas for how to run sessions on digital skills, online safety and computer science, and it’s currently in a pilot phase with ten libraries across the UK and Ireland. By helping librarians share ideas and resources with one another, public libraries will be able to run effective sessions that encourage participation from people who would be otherwise hard to reach.
Library staff members in the pilot are helping residents respond to their local challenges. For example, they’re delivering extra trainings in rural areas like Norfolk; while in South Dublin there’s a drive to get more young people into STEM careers, making resources on coding particularly useful. The toolkit will help librarians share their knowledge with their colleagues, taking inspiration from the Google partnership already running with the American Library Association.
We’ve already gotten some inspiring feedback from those ten libraries leading the way in the UK and Ireland. In Stockton, librarian Katherine McDonagh said, “We’re reaching people who wouldn’t usually attend our regular sessions and most importantly showing people that your public library is just as relevant as ever.”
Author Neil Gaiman once described libraries as the “gates to the future.” With this new toolkit, Google and Public Libraries 2020 can help more people learn the digital skills and knowledge to feel confident as they step into that future, whatever it holds for them.