SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management)
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Funding to enable free wi-fi access in public libraries in England

A message from Socitm's colleagues at Arts Council England, May 2015

By March 2016 we aim to have all public libraries in England providing free access to wi-fi. With funding announced in the March Budget, Arts Council England will make this possible through a funding programme due to be launched in July. 

Extending their role as gateways to the world of knowledge and information, public libraries will be providing the most widespread opportunity in the country for people to connect to digital services via wi-fi networks on their laptops, tablets and smartphones. 

This initiative follows the recommendation in William Sieghart's Independent Report on Libraries and will be an early achievement for the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce set up by Ed Vaizey (Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy) and the Local Government Association (LGA) in January 2015. 

Whilst many libraries already offer wi-fi facilities, the programme will ensure comprehensive coverage which will unlock further opportunities to extend library services and develop important new partnerships that will benefit local residents and citizens.

What happens next?

After the launch in July, eligible public library authorities will be invited to prepare their proposals for implementing this programme with a deadline in the early autumn. Funding decisions will be made soon afterwards enabling work to begin and for installation to be completed by the end of March 2016. Everyone recognises that this is an extremely tight timescale, but this is the basis on which Government funding is provided. In planning the programme, there has been consultation with the LGA, Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Society of IT Management (Socitm).

What can be done between now and July

Full details of the programme will be available when the programme launches in July. In the meantime local authorities are encouraged to plan how they wish to approach this opportunity. This could involve discussions within the local authority (eg briefing Members, and discussions between officers in the library service, finance and ICT), and with key partners (eg external ICT providers, services that share premises with libraries and community/volunteer managed/led libraries). 

To help initial planning, please note that the priority for funding will be to address gaps in free access to wi-fi with funds also available to bring some existing provision up to the expected standard. Under the terms of the funding from the Government, funding will be available for installation of wi-fi only, and in library buildings, not mobile libraries.  


Brian Ashley

Director, Libraries

Arts Council England


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