Partner profile: Leeds Libraries

Library service users accessing online library resources with iPads

Leeds has 34 public libraries across the city and as a universal provider offers services to a wide and diverse range of communities. Libraries are safe spaces within communities with trusted staff on hand, which provides plenty of opportunities to make positive interventions when it comes to digital inclusion.

Frontline staff as Digital Champions

100% Digital Leeds provided Digital Champion Train the Trainer sessions to librarians who then cascaded the training to frontline staff throughout the library service, resulting in over 300 Digital Champions to date with more trained as part of new starters’ inductions.

With the knowledge gained as Digital Champions, frontline staff are much more aware of how to identify barriers that are stopping people from getting online and now have tips on how to help customers overcome these issues. As staff speak with library users every day they can hold positive conversations around digital, helping to motivate people to give it a go. The awareness gained as Digital Champions within a wider network of digital support available around the city means customers are more likely to be signposted to the most suitable service for their needs

Digital skills training

Leeds Libraries has delivered digital skills sessions for many years, and has free wifi and PCs available across the city to provide access for those at risk of digital exclusion. The Library’s digital team identified a need for basic skills sessions for those with no skills whatsoever, and has developed a successful First Steps with Digital course delivered by Digital Champion Librarians who provide the motivation to overcome the skills barrier.

Devices and data

The tablet lending scheme developed by 100% Digital Leeds will now be managed by Leeds Libraries, who will make tablets with data available to individuals as well as organisations which will build on the existing offer and extend its reach into communities. By supporting organisations and encouraging their users into libraries it will also provide more opportunities for positive interventions for other digital inclusion needs, like the skills sessions mentioned earlier. The tablet lending scheme will be relaunched in the new year.

Leeds Libraries has partnered with the Good Things Foundation to become a gifting partner for the National Databank scheme. So far libraries have gifted 175 SIM cards which amounts to savings of over £12,500, and is helping people who are digitally excluded to get online.

Digital health care

The last few years has emphasised the importance digital can have when it comes to health care. 100% Digital Leeds has supported Leeds Libraries as they develop their digital health hub offer in tandem with community organisations in Local Care Partnerships around the city. The place-based approach taken by 100% Digital Leeds coupled with the number of libraries around the city increases the opportunities to support customers.

A library staff member on secondment worked closely with 100% Digital Leeds on a project to help people using NHS rehabilitation services to access support during the Covid pandemic. The expertise and access to 100% Digital’s network of primary and secondary healthcare organisations helped steer the project and improve its outcomes. Following the secondment the staff member continues to work with 100% Digitals’ Health Hub network to develop the library offer.

Arts In Care Homes Day

Leeds Libraries supported 100% Digital Leeds’ Arts in Care Homes day by developing several health and wellbeing sessions that took a softer approach to digital; the sessions were primarily based around creative arts and music, and towards the end of each session a digital element was introduced, such as showing how to create a YouTube music playlist or using a collaging app. This fun and light-touch approach hopes to ease people into the session who might be put off by the thought of digital.

“This year we took part in arts in care homes day with a digital inclusion workshop called reminiscing records. The session was designed to have a soft approach and to invite participants to have fun when going online in an inclusive and safe environment. The session had a large music theme, involving a classic music quiz and even live music – a chance to remember and reminisce our favourites! Towards the end of the session, once participants had had the opportunity to settle in, I introduced listening to music on YouTube and making a playlist! As we had begun the session in a format most people will recognise – a quiz, when going online to look at YouTube, it can feel less threatening. Overall, everyone seemed to really enjoy it and we got quite a few dance moves over Zoom.”

Agnes Leonowicz, Librarian, Leeds Libraries

Leeds Libraries also had a variety of online resources for the public, such as Learn In The Library, Libraries Online Learning, and Leeds Libraries Leeds Inspired.