Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from guest author Ilona Kish, Director of the Public Libraries 2020 Program in Europe.
When you think of your local library, perhaps you 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 90% of new jobs will require digital skills by 2020, libraries are key to providing local tools and programs that teach such foundational skills. To help libraries provide welcoming spaces where people feel safe to learn, Public Libraries 2020 has partnered with Grow with Google, an initiative that has already helped over 4 million Europeans grow their skills, and this year further pledged to help 1 million more to find a job or grow their business by 2020.
Now, Public Libraries 2020 and Grow with Google will together help everyone from students to pensioners learn about digital skills, online safety and computer science. Taking inspiration from Google’s partnership with the American Library Association, this new digital toolkit titled “Libraries Lead with Digital” features ideas, guidance and lessons plans and has now launched in ten libraries across the UK and Ireland. The toolkit enables librarians to share ideas and resources with one another, allowing public libraries to run effective sessions that encourage participation from people who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn these skills.
Library staff members delivering the new digital workshops are now helping residents respond to their local challenges. For example: in rural areas like Norfolk, librarians are delivering digital skills classes; while in South Dublin, where there’s a drive to get more young people into STEM careers, coding resources are being offered.
We’ve already received inspiring feedback from the first 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, whether they’re picking up a new hobby or looking to advance their career.