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An evaluation of the UK People’s Network has been published.
The People’s Network, a €120 million lottery-funded project to connect all 4200 libraries to the internet, represents the biggest single investment in the 150-year history of the public library service and a significant supplement to local authorities’ existing annual library budgets. It was managed in England by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and completed in 2004, on time and in budget.
The independent evaluation published today reveals the scale of the transformation of the library service as a result of the People’s Network. It focuses on feedback from library staff and from users themselves, in 16 detailed case studies. It suggests that users are overwhelmingly positive about ICT in libraries. The majority of those questioned said it would be difficult or impossible to access the internet if their library did not provide this service. Even those with a computer at home valued the support, guidance and technical assistance available in their local library. [MLA – Press Releases – National evaluation reveals impact of People’s Network]
This initiative was prompted by New Library: the People’s Network, a report published in 1998. The report contains a specially commissioned poem from Ted Hughes. I have always been surprised that this library poem has not been more widely noticed. It contains the verse:
Even the most misfitting child
Who’s chanced upon the library’s worth,
Sits with the genius of the Earth
And turns the key to the whole world.