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How Merthyr Tydfil libraries have embraced the Digital Inclusion Charter

From Jane Sellwood, Principal Librarian, Merthyr Tydfil Public Libraries

We ensure that our staff and volunteers have an opportunity to learn basic digital skills, and that they take advantage of this opportunity, by having digital training needs as a standing item on bi-monthly one-to-one meetings and encouraging all staff to identify their own gaps and take opportunities to improve. We use a variety of training providers to help fill skills gaps. We work with the National Library of Wales to offer Agored accredited digital skill courses around digitisation, while all volunteers are offered the same level of training in digital skills as the paid staff.

We ensure that digital inclusion principles are embedded into our day-to-day activities in a number of different ways, including:

• Knowing our customers well and listening to what they tell us allows us to shape digital services around them. We are responsive to changes in the environment and in people’s needs and maintain regular contact to ensure relevancy to the user.

• Maintaining a good level of access across the borough allows users to access services at a variety of locations. 88% of households are within 2.5 miles or 10 minutes travelling time by public transport of a library service point where they can access the internet/computers and other digital services.

• We use different activities and events around digital skills and inclusion to ensure we attract a range of users, such as money saving events, tablet and iPad events and mobile phone events.

• Libraries in Merthyr Tydfil saw 100% of respondents to a recent questionnaire say that they felt the library was a safe and inclusive place and therefore we are able to build trust with users and help them in the ways that they need.

• We work with a range of partners and volunteers to help deliver digital skills as well as having a commitment to upskilling our paid staff. We have worked with Welsh Government volunteers and the RNIB this year to deliver digital skills (amongst others).

• We are focussing efforts on ensuring that users start to become digitally literate as we see this as a vital skill in being able to be an active citizen. We record the number of users helped through informal means and are hoping to start to see this number decrease in coming years as we enable people to become more skilled. A success story from our recent survey on why people used the computers at the library saw this quote ‘I didn’t need to ask staff this time because I came to a few drop in lessons and I know enough now to do what I need. But I know that if I do need them the staff are always around to help’.

We encourage and support our staff and volunteers to help other people to get online and have the confidence to develop basic digital skills. We have several staff now trained as digital champions and will be offering other staff the opportunity to do this training as well in the coming months. We have several volunteers who are already at the standard required to do this through previous training as Communities 2.0 volunteers and staff. Staff actively promote digital library resources and often do ‘ad-hoc’ training with people in how to use them. Staff also promote the use of wi-fi in the library buildings and again offer support to access it from users own equipment.

We commit support and resources for digital inclusion activities and initiatives in whatever ways we can. Although we have a limited staff training budget and time constraints have an impact on what we do, we are committed to improving digital skills among staff and during the last year approximately 50% of the training time staff went on was linked to digital skills. We support other people such as the RNIB to run digital skills sessions in our buildings free of charge. We have a named volunteer co-ordinator who oversees the volunteers working in the digital field and offer training where appropriate to them. Also, we engage fully with all-Wales initiatives and welcome opportunities to work with others.

Finally, in terms of partnership / wider working, we were an active member of the all Wales information literacy group which covered digital skills, we are happy to be involved with any and all local partnerships and are looking to work more closely with the Local Authority in Merthyr Tydfil to develop stronger partnerships in different areas as they move towards a more digital service provision. We work already with a variety of people and are keen to develop partnerships where appropriate to develop activities and provision in the local area.

Image from Merthyr Libraries website