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Training opens new chapter for Blaenau Gwent library staff

In recent years, libraries have changed beyond all recognition, with the introduction of public access computers one major development.

More people are visiting libraries to use computers and get online. However, not all library staff and people who help out at libraries on a voluntary basis have the skills or confidence to help someone get online.Digital Communities Wales (DCW) has recently worked with the Aneurin Leisure Trust, which delivers learning, cultural and leisure services across Blaenau Gwent. The six libraries in Blaenau Gwent come under the auspices of the Trust located in Abertillery, Blaina, Brynmawr, Cwm, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar.

We delivered a short training session to a mixture of frontline staff and volunteers – ten in all – who, between them, work across the six libraries in Blaenau Gwent. The half-day session delivered by one of DCW’s Digital Inclusion Practitioner Trainers focused on three key areas – ‘Using the web/apps to support health and wellbeing’, ‘Money Saving – tips and tools’ and ‘An introduction to E-Government services’.

As signatories of the DCW Digital Inclusion Charter, the libraries in Blaenau Gwent play a key role in providing support to those who are not online. Aneurin Leisure Trust reports that more people visit the library to use the computers than to borrow books, and demand for people requiring help to get online continues to grow. It is therefore essential that frontline staff and volunteers have the skills and knowledge to effectively deliver this support.

The ‘saving money online’ section of the training helped to bring digital and financial inclusion together, looking at price comparison sites, online banking, credit unions, Money Made Clear Wales website and online coupons – all tools that could prove useful in a community that experiences relatively high levels of poverty, and which are highly relevant to people on a day-to-day basis.

Tracy Jones, Library Services Manager, said: “It is really important to be able to continue developing the knowledge and skills of our staff and volunteers to enable them to support our customers, who seek our help with using technology. The training offer from DCW meant that we were able to tailor the sessions to concentrate on specific subjects, chosen by the staff and volunteers that would help meet the diverse range of customer’s requirements.

This is key as the number of people coming into the libraries across Blaenau Gwent looking for help is still on the increase, a trend which is likely to continue as more and more services move online.
We are very fortunate to have a group of committed volunteers who regularly assist customers, adding much needed capacity particularly in libraries with very few staff. They have helped countless job seekers to navigate the complex system of job searching and completing CVs and job applications. The contribution of two of these was recognised when they were presented with an award for “Volunteers who go above and beyond” by the High Sherriff of Gwent”.