I was delighted to be asked to write this guest blog for SCL because I adore libraries.
Anyone who knows me will know how I could happily talk for hours about libraries. I’m passionate about what they stand for and their potential to play an even more prominent role in their communities. I’ve spoken a lot about this in the past, and I’m particularly keen to see libraries evolve and excel in the 21st century, which is why I’m so pleased to be working with SCL to strengthen the Universal Offers of public library services. And it’s with great excitement that Tinder Foundation will shortly be announcing several new initiatives that aim to support libraries, and their digital offering in particular, over the next few years.
Back to the beginning…
My love affair with libraries first began as a teenager. My local library became a sanctuary where I could freely listen to any type of music I wanted, from Leonard Cohen to Schubert to the Sex Pistols, on vinyl and without judgement. Don’t worry, I did also read books there!
I still think libraries are essential to our society. My dream is for libraries to be the hub of their communities and the centre of information, education, leisure, advice and entertainment. They should be the place people can’t wait to visit – exciting, attractive, fun, and dynamic. Evolving with their community to meet its needs.
Technology plays an important role in meeting this need, which is why Tinder Foundation is focussed on working with libraries to tackle digital inclusion. We have seen how well placed they are in communities to respond to needs and demands around digital inclusion. We work with thousands of libraries around the UK to help them to deliver basic digital skills support, often helping people that face multiple, complex barriers. 55% of our community partner network is made up of libraries, and I hope this number increases over time.
In June, we announced a new project with the Public Libraries 2020 scheme that raises the profile of libraries on a national and European level. As part of the project we’ll be campaigning for libraries to receive increased acknowledgement from politicians and in October during Get Online Week we’ll be encouraging library partners to invite their local MPs to run a ‘digital surgery’ in their library. We will be working closely with SCL in the run up to the campaign to ensure maximum impact, and we will share further information nearer the time.
I’m excited for us to continue working in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), SCL and the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce to support digital inclusion activities in libraries, and there will be more news towards the end of the month about some great funding opportunities from Tinder Foundation.
There are so many great libraries around the UK and I value the strong partnerships we have built up with so many. I hope we can continue building these relationships, engage with more library services and helping them to be as brilliant as they can possibly be.
Please do keep an eye on the SCL website and follow @TinderFdn to keep up with the news as it happens. In the meantime you can tweet me @helenmilner and join in with wider discussions using #DigiLibraries.
Helen Milner OBE is the Chief Executive of Tinder Foundation, a UK social enterprise and staff-owned mutual. She is passionate about making good things happen through digital technology. Helen works in partnership with over 5,000 hyper-local community partners so people can benefit from everything the internet has to offer. In the five years from 2010 – 2015 her organisation and its local partners have helped over 1.5 million people to do just that using www.learnmyway.com
Helen has 30 years’ experience of working on the internet, starting in 1985 in the private sector with TTNS, developing Internet education content and services for UK children and schools. She worked in online education in Australia and Japan, and she helped to create learndirect – the UK online adult learning network.
Working closely with Government Ministers and officials since the 1990s, Helen’s ambition is to ensure that no one is left behind as the world becomes increasingly digital.