SCL Continues to Raise Digital Skills and Leadership Standards
Two key programmes publish findings on creating digital leaders

The Society of Chief Librarians has published findings from two programme evaluations that point to an increase in levels of digital skills and leadership among public library staff.

—To date, more than 14,000 library staff members, 80% of the workforce, have completed a SCL Digital Skills E-learning programme. SCL commissioned Oakleigh Consulting to evaluate the e-learning programme and the highlights from their report are published today. Supporting Digital Access to Information and Services Executive summary 20-03-15

—In autumn 2014 SCL commissioned Shared Intelligence and Ethan Ohs to initiate a Digital Leadership Skills workforce development programme. The central objective of the pilot course was to create a training programme for current and emerging library leaders which took pressing issues relating to digital technology, and used them to explore and develop leadership skills and competencies. Seventeen library leaders took part in the pilot. The evaluation of the pilot course is published today. SCL Digital Leadership Report FINAL 260515 – WEB VERSION

The results of both evaluations show strong links between skills development and addressing the need for library staff to be strong digital champions. Participants in both programmes emphasised the need for time and space to devote to improving their digital acumen. Both programmes aim to create and nurture digital pioneers and digitally confident staff members who can help library customers to overcome barriers they face when getting online.

For many people in the UK, the local public library is the only place to access computers and the internet for free. According to ONS data more than 4 million households do not have internet access, and a large part of this group state that barriers, including lack of skills and equipment and access costs, prevent them from connecting to the internet. Public libraries offer more than just computer and internet access: most have digital skills sessions aimed at both novice and experienced computer users. A growing number also offer more specialised services too such as; technologies which support people with dementia through reminiscence activities, educational software for teaching computer coding to children, and computer programmes which support self-management of health conditions.

Local and central Government departments in England make use of libraries as a delivery channel for their digital services. Thanks to both of these programmes and to funding from Arts Council England, all library services in England have taken steps to improve the digital confidence of staff members in order to help customers even more.
Ciara Eastell, SCL President, said: “Our greatest resource is our library staff—dedicated professionals who value helping customers above all else. It is essential that we continue to provide library staff with the skills and confidence to be digital leaders and pioneers and we look forward to two more cohorts of the digital leadership programme, and continuous updating of digital skills among library staff. Public libraries are a key partner for digital inclusion work with the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Ben Lee, Programme Director, Shared Intelligence, said: “The number of improvements the first cohort have made in their own services since January is really impressive.  From technology which helps people manage mental illness, to digitally-assisted access for people with sensory impairments, to improving WiFi, the course has shown how leadership development combined with better understanding of the potential of digital technology can inspire and enable library professionals to help and reach even more people in their communities.”

Kay Renfrew, Project Director from Oakleigh Consulting said: “The evaluation quantified the significant progress many library staff have made in improving their ability and skills to meet the needs of people who might otherwise be digitally excluded. Our conversations with library users and the case studies drawn up illustrate the extensive computer and online support that library staff give to people looking for jobs, rebuilding their lives after bereavement or just learning how to use a computer – and how much users appreciate their help. The way the programme was delivered has created a regional network which is well placed to build on successes to date. Some libraries are also embracing new digital technologies with coding workshops, hackathons, and 3D printing ‘maker space’ workshops to engage with their communities in new ways.”

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Elford, SCL Advocacy Manager | | 07891 056114
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.