Libraries to Provide Exciting Learning Opportunities
under New Universal Offer

Code Green Launched: The How-to Guide for Coding, Robotics, Digital Music Making, Community Building and more for public libraries
This morning at Pancras Square Library in Camden the Society of Chief Librarians and the Association of Senior Education and Children’s Librarians, along with the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey and Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley will unveil new ways for people and communities to learn in public libraries across England. The Universal Learning Offer is available in all library services across England and brings together hundreds of unique self-directed learning opportunities for library users, and broadens the range of learning opportunities on offer in local libraries.

In order to support economic growth and the wellbeing of communities, the UK needs to address the skills deficit in our workforce. The Confederation of British Industry estimates that nearly 40% of firms looking for staff with STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) have had difficulties recruiting and a recent House of Lords report warns that the UK could be left behind in terms of our digital skills capabilities. The loss to the UK economy because of this lack of skills has been estimated at £2 billion.

The Learning Offer will provide libraries with “Code Green”: a detailed Digital Making Kit, a how-to guide to give customers hands-on experience in computer programming (coding), designing and making 3D objects, building robots, creating apps and many other creative activities for all ages. The Learning Offer resources will build on SCL’s Digital Skills Training programme that reached 14,000 library staff.

The Universal Learning Offer in public libraries has been developed so that children, young people and families will be able to build their confidence and skill with their creativity, coding and digital skills. This offer will give families more opportunities to learn together, on a variety of subjects, and help to move through from literacy to fluency. People will grow new skills, find more job opportunities and stimulating experiences in their local area, in a friendly and welcoming environment.

At the launch a film, ”Lightbulb Moments – Learning in Libraries” will be shown to highlight the impact that learning in libraries has had on customers across the country. The film is also available on the SCL website .

Ciara Eastell, SCL President said: “Learning has always been at the heart of what libraries deliver and libraries are increasingly being used by a wide range of people to develop life-essential skills. With the growth in self-directed learning, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), the phenomenal success of Open University and others, it is a logical step for libraries to be more central in the learning sector. We plan to widely publicise our unique and free learning resources and we look forward to working with partners to deliver this offer.”

Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey said:  “I am delighted to launch the new Universal Learning Offer.  SCL and its partners have worked incredibly hard to ensure this offer is a success and that it can be shared with everyone at all stages of their learning journey.”

“Libraries are the cornerstones of the communities they serve and this offer will bring a variety of unique learning opportunities into one place. It will create spaces for communities to share ideas and learn together. With the support of the Learning Offer, libraries can build further on great initiatives such as setting up coding clubs, digital training and more.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: “Libraries have always been great places of learning and this fifth Universal Offer builds on that great heritage. Our libraries have a strong track record in responding to the needs of their communities and I’m particularly excited about the possibilities for libraries to harness the latest technology to make this a reality. Libraries are well placed help young people and adults alike build their confidence and skills in a friendly and welcoming environment.”

Sylvia Lowe, Programme Director Digital Education, Nesta, said: “Understanding and manipulating digital technology is no longer a specialist skill – it is key to creative expression, social inclusion and business creation, and is increasingly in demand across the jobs market.  Yet the gap between interest in digital technologies and access to opportunities to learn digital skills is still vast. Our own research found that for every sixty young people interested in digital making only one is able to find extracurricular activities. If we want to equip a new generation with these skills, we need to provide opportunities to learn outside, as well as inside, the classroom. Libraries, with their position at the heart of the community, are perfectly placed for this.”
Case Study: Increasing Girls’ Participation in Engineering
Manchester Libraries and Robogals

Robogals approached Manchester Libraries to run workshops directly after seeing a newspaper story about the library service running Digital Skills for Women courses. The news story encouraged them to contact the library and changed their perceptions of what activities libraries could offer.
The sessions engage the girls in small group activities to build robots that are capable of performing specific actions and then end in a showcase and mini-competition where each team can demonstrate the robots they have built and see which one best meets the challenge they have been set. The aim of the sessions is for girls to gain confidence and a sense of achievement and potentially to develop their interest in programming and science.
Offering greater access to digital literacy via innovative collaborations has helped to change perceptions of what you can do in a library.

Wigan Libraries – engaging disabled people and dementia patients with digital music making

Wigan Libraries have used apps available on iPads to engage groups with complex physical and learning disabilities to make ambient music. The Digital Services Manager for Wigan libraries, Michael Stead said:

“In about 2010. We were interested in exploring new ways for people to do something creative with technology: specifically, we had just bought our first two iPads and an opportunity came up to work with young people with physical and developmental disabilities. Many of these individuals had previously struggled with conventional computer technology but the iPad’s capacitive touchscreen made music apps much more accessible.

“For young people with disabilities and people with dementia the immediate benefit is that we have found a new way of accessing technology which works for them. Our approach to using technology often has this in mind: we find a ‘hook’ which piques interest, giving us an opportunity to explore further learning with participants, or to signpost them to other providers and services.”

Exeter Library Fab Lab
Exeter Library hosts the UK’s first digital fabrication space in a public library. It is run on a not-for-profit basis and provides access to cutting edge digital fabrication tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and digital embroidery machines to the local public. It is used by a broad cross-section of the local community, including school children and students, retired people, local businesses and people using the space for their hobbies.

A Fab Lab volunteer said:

“It has attracted an amazing amount of people of all ages and all interests into using computer operated machinery to make things. The fact that it’s in a library does make it accessible so that when people are walking by they can come in and take a taster course and learn new skills”

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Elizabeth Elford
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Notes for Editors

The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service.

ASCEL – the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians – is the national membership network of senior managers in children’s and young people’s public library services and school library services in the UK. Our aim is to lead excellence in library services for children and young people and schools so that every child and young person visiting a public library should be inspired by an exciting environment which makes reading for pleasure irresistible, and every school has access to a high quality school library service.

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

Code Green: The how to guide for all digital making and community building: