December 23, 2014
The latest venue to be co-opted as a potential flexible working space is the public library. According to a new report published last week by William Sieghart, based on research into over 150 locations and hundreds of written submissions, the key to saving Britain’s imperilled public libraries is for them to introduce more seating, Wi-Fi connectivity and hot drinks and food. The provision of fast and reliable Wi-Fi access was named as one of the key actions to draw more people away from coffee shops, which often prove popular venues for flexible working, and into libraries. The report, published by the Department for Culture Media and Sport found that a third of libraries currently do not offer visitors Wi-Fi, which is a “shocking” statistic, according to report author, William Sieghart. “So they’re slated for closure while everyone’s in the Costa opposite, where there’s a loo, hot drinks and internet access.”
Over 30 libraries have closed in the UK since 2011, according to the report found, thanks to a combination of funding cuts and dwindling use. So salvaging the library network “starts with, rolling Wi-Fi out to every library in the country,” the report says. “The Wi-Fi connection should be delivered in a comfortable, retail-standard environment, with the usual amenities of coffee, sofas and toilets…a marked increase and improvement in digital technology”, including rolling Wi-Fi out to every library in the country, was need to ensure that customers began using libraries more and ensure they become “vibrant and attractive community hubs”.
The government claims it is now committed to taking forward the report’s recommendations. “We are setting up a taskforce in partnership with local government to consider the recommendations in the report and lead on any future actions,” it said in the announcement of the report’s publication.
The three key recommendations of the report are:
- A national digital resource for libraries, delivered in partnership with local councils
- A taskforce led by local government in partnership with other bodies to boost national standards in England’s libraries
- For that taskforce to help local councils to improve and revitalise local library services while encouraging increased community involvement.