The successful applicants of a scheme to install and upgrade wi-fi in public libraries have been announced, resulting in more than 1000 winners.
The initiative is a one-off funding programme from Arts Council England on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to enable all libraries in England to provide free, accessible wi-fi for users.
Arts Council England’s Wi-fi in Public Libraries programme aims for public libraries to be “providing the most widespread opportunity in the country for people to connect to digital services via wi-fi networks”. All 1036 libraries that received funding have promised to have wi-fi installed or upgraded by 31 March 2016 under the conditions of their application.
The competition was open to all local authorities and public libraries in England. Local authorities were able to apply for funding for on behalf of an individual or group of community or volunteer-led libraries outside of their ‘usual provision’. Altogether, 68 local authorities were successful in their applications, receiving a total of almost £2,650,000.
On its website, Arts Council England says it is: “committed to supporting the development of the library service. We recognise the importance of safeguarding a service that is fit for purpose now and in the future. This includes promotion of increased usage of libraries, improved engagement of users and tackling digital exclusion.
“Free wi-fi allows library users the flexibility to drop in, log on using their own devices and do what they need easily and without fuss” it says.
The Wi-fi in Public Libraries initiative follows William Sieghart’s Independent Report on Libraries recommendations; it will be an early achievement for the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, set up by DCMS and the Local Government Association and central to the ambitions of Arts Council’s ‘Envisioning the Library of the Future’ which aims to position public libraries as a core provider of public digital services.
See the full list of funding awards (please note this opens an Excel spreadsheet).