In recent years, particularly with the onset of the pandemic, Irish public libraries have been required to develop new approaches to service delivery in the form of high-quality digital resources. Most of the new innovations which emerged are now embedded into ongoing service delivery. New technologies, which previously had taken more time to integrate, have been readily adopted and are now widely used in public libraries in Ireland.
The Carnegie Trust in ‘Making A Difference: Libraries, Lockdown and Looking Ahead’ notes the significant potential for library staff to support local communities as everyday engagement with digital technologies continues to increase. Following research with public library services in the UK, they noted that:
“The vast majority of [library] staff, irrespective of role, expressed ambition both for what the service can deliver and for their own development in order to help create responsive offers that better serve their communities over the years ahead.”
New approaches to the provision of digital services and technologies in libraries also necessitated additional training for library staff and the development of new skills. Indeed, maintaining good levels of library staff digital skills is an important objective for public libraries in Ireland. A new strategy for Irish public libraries, The Library is the Place: Information, Recreation, Inspiration, launched in 2023, focuses on the digital offer and support for library users to navigate digital services and technologies. The strategy also commits to the provision of comprehensive training to further support library staff in developing and expanding their digital skills.
By offering relevant digital technologies, providing authoritative information sources digitally, and providing guidance to users on identifying and accessing reliable information online, the important role of public libraries in the development of the digital competencies of local communities is clearly set to increase into the future.
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