To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions she has had with (a) other government departments and (b) non-governmental bodies on strengthening the role of libraries in (i) promoting digital and other forms of literacy and (ii) providing access to public computers in (A) areas of serious deprivation and (B) other areas, and otherwise furthering national policy.
I recently had discussions with the Minister for Civil Society, my hon. Friend Mr Hurd and I am due to meet Ministers in the Cabinet Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government on the Government digital agenda in the provision of the library services. In addition, Arts Council England (ACE) as an arms-length body of Government has identified four priorities to sustain and develop a 21st century public library service including making the most of digital technology and creative media. While many public library services run by the local authorities across England already promote digital literacy and provision of access to computers and the internet, the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) in partnership with ACE and The Reading Agency, launched the Universal Offers initiative in January 2013 which included the Universal Digital Offer that defined the minimum a public library authority should provide and what customers should expect from their public library. This includes free access to the internet for every customer for a minimum period of time and staff trained to help customers access digital information. This initiative is being rolled out across public libraries in England during 2013.