The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



(2004), "UK", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Wireless access in libraries

Ten public libraries across England will soon be able to provide wireless access to the Internet. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) is working in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and The Countryside Agency on a £60,000 pilot project to help rural communities take further advantage of broadband Internet services.

Already public libraries across England provide broadband access to the Internet, with trained staff on hand to give help and advice. The project was completed on time and in budget in 2002. It has already attracted new users to libraries and has helped 8,000 people find jobs and 25,000 to gain a qualification or undertake a course online. Over 50,000 people are using the network for activities to help support their local community. Some rural libraries now enhance their People’s Network provision by installing wireless (WiFi) “hotspots” enabling Internet access without cables or wires.

Local people will be able to turn up at their nearest library WiFi site and log on to the Internet simply by switching on their own wireless-enabled computer. There will also be opportunities to loan WiFi equipment from the library.

The ten pilot sites are:

  • Ayton Library (North Yorkshire).

  • Barnard Castle Library (County Durham).

  • Belper Library (Derbyshire).

  • Brewood Library (Staffordshire).

  • Chatburn Library (Lancashire).

  • Launceston Library (Cornwall).

  • Lyndhurst Library (Hampshire).

  • Potton Library (Bedfordshire).

  • Princetown Library (Devon).

  • Sandwich Library (Kent).

UK e-commerce minister Stephen Timms said:

  • This innovative pilot project will bring the educational and social benefits of broadband to communities throughout the UK – especially in rural areas. I am delighted that my department has been able to support the MLA, The Countryside Agency and the People’s Network project to maximize the potential of WiFi technology and bring us even closer to our ambitious broadband targets.

Mark Wood, Chair of MLA said:

  • I’m delighted that the DTI and The Countryside Agency have been able to support this exciting initiative. Public libraries, through the People’s Network, are already providing fantastic opportunities for people all over the country to get involved with ICT. WiFi technology extends the reach of the People’s Network even further for rural communities.

Brian Wilson, Programme Director at the Countryside Agency, commented:

  • Fast broadband access to the Internet is not yet an option for many rural businesses and communities. These pilots will provide access at public libraries, with 24/7 access in five cases. We want to see how rural communities use this innovative facility and what benefits it brings.

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