‘Libraries coming to aid of jobless’ – ACE

Local libraries are coming to the aid of those seeking work during the Covid-19 crisis, according to new figures from Arts Council England.

Libraries have been closed to since March 23, but since lockdown they have stepped up to local needs by upgrading their digital offer, strengthening information resources and their e-offer, and developing live feeds for activities like Read and Rhyme times and Lego and Book Clubs, brought together by ACE’s support organisation, Libraries Connected. They have even been able to help by 3D printing protective equipment.

“Conscious of their role in supporting the vulnerable in our society, public libraries have been keen to find ways of continuing to provide a service” said ACE’s director of libraries, Sue Williamson.

Now, libraries have added computer access, jobs clubs, support on CV writing and basic adult and community to the services to help people get back to work. Data from Norfolk Library ServiceSomerset Library Service and Wandsworth Library Service, ACE says, is demonstrating how effective the library services are in giving access and providing assistance. 

  • At Battersea, 62% of the sample of PC users were unemployed, and a third said they were using it for job seeking
  • Library users in the three library service samples tended to live in less well-off postcodes, with 63% and 68% of users came from the lower half of the national deprivation distribution
  • One in five (21%) PC users at Norwich Millennium library came from postcodes in the most deprived decile nationally, the highest proportion amongst the three locations
  • 74% of frontline library staff report providing ad hoc staff digital assistance, such as  setting up an email account or logging into the Universal Credit website)

In 2019 the Democratising Entrepreneurship report showed the impact of the British Library's Business & IP Centre Network on the communities the network has supported:

  • over the last three years the network supported the creation of 12,288 businesses, equivalent to 15 new businesses every working day, 22% from the most deprived areas, 47% in the Northern Powerhouse areas
  • of those who started a new business, 55% were women, 31% came from diverse backgrounds, 17% were disabled and 29% were aged 35 and under and 22% from the most deprived areas
  • Creating jobs: services helped new and established businesses create an estimated total of 7,843 net additional FTE jobs
  • Boosting local economies: net additional GVA (Gross Value Added) for Business & IP Centre supported businesses was an estimated £78 million, a payback of £6.95 for every £1 of public money spent.

Ongoing research project commissioned by Arts Council England is being undertaken by Shared Intelligence and Cambridge Econometrics to understand exactly how Libraries can best support their communities in improving employment outcomes, and be at the heart of a regeneration and levelling up agenda.

“While no one knows how long the lockdown will continue, it is heartening, and not surprising, that public libraries are at the forefront of supporting communities” Sue Williamson said. “Many people are turning to culture and the written word to support them through this crisis which is something that libraries can provide, alongside using their key skills to support community need.”




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