Learn with Devon’s libraries

Posted on: 5 November 2015

Libraries across Devon are taking part in a national initiative to help people learn new digital skills in order to support economic growth and improve wellbeing.

According to a recent report by the House of Lords, the UK is in danger of falling behind in its digital skills capabilities, which could cost the economy around £2 billion.

In response The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians have joined forces to launch ‘The Universal Learning Offer’.

Bringing together hundreds of unique self-directed learning opportunities for libraries users, the scheme aims to broaden the range of learning opportunities on offer in local libraries so people can grow new skills and find more job opportunities while enjoying learning in a friendly and welcoming environment.

Libraries will be provided with ‘Code Green’ – a detailed digital making kit that will help them to give customers, particularly children and young people, hands-on experience in computer coding, designing and printing 3D objects, building robots, creating apps and many other creative activities.

Devon County Council’s Library Service is already leading the way in helping residents build their confidence in digital skills such as coding. For example, they are working in collaboration with Code Club to run clubs in libraries across the county to encourage children learn to be creative with computing. Exeter Library has recently been awarded ‘Star Club’ status and is being held up as a shining example to other clubs around the country.

Exeter Library also hosts the UK’s first digital fabrication space in a public library. Run on a not-for-profit basis, the Fab Lab provides access to cutting edge digital making tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and digital embroidery machines to the public. It is hugely popular and used by a broad cross-section of the local community, including school children and students, retired people, local businesses and people using the space for their hobbies.

Cllr Roger CroadCllr Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the library service, said:

“Our libraries are valuable learning and meeting spaces for the local community so I am pleased that this scheme will help us expand the opportunities we offer our users.

“I would encourage everyone to visit their local library and see what is on offer, and if you’re in Exeter make sure you visit the Fab Lab on the ground floor of the library, it is truly fascinating and a real asset for Devon.”

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy and Growth, said:

“We need to help upskill the local workforce, and our future workforce, so that we are in the best position possible for economic growth.

“This scheme will help do that, and our libraries are the perfect place to encourage creativity and innovation.”

Ciara Eastell, Head of Devon County Council’s Library Service and SCL President said:

“Learning has always been at the heart of what libraries deliver and libraries are increasingly being used by a wide range of people to develop life-essential skills. With the growth in self-directed learning, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), the phenomenal success of Open University and others, it is a logical step for libraries to be more central in the learning sector. We plan to widely publicise our unique and free learning resources and we look forward to working with partners to deliver this offer.”

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, launched ‘The Universal Learning Offer’ and ‘Code Green’ at Pancras Square Library in Camden earlier today.

He said:

“I am delighted to launch the new Universal Learning Offer. SCL and its partners have worked incredibly hard to ensure this offer is a success and that it can be shared with everyone at all stages of their learning journey.”

“Libraries are the cornerstones of the communities they serve and this offer will bring a variety of unique learning opportunities into one place. It will create spaces for communities to share ideas and learn together. With the support of the Learning Offer, libraries can build further on great initiatives such as setting up coding clubs, digital training and more.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said:

“Libraries have always been great places of learning and this fifth Universal Offer builds on that great heritage. Our libraries have a strong track record in responding to the needs of their communities and I’m particularly excited about the possibilities for libraries to harness the latest technology to make this a reality. Libraries are well placed help young people and adults alike build their confidence and skills in a friendly and welcoming environment.”

Sylvia Lowe, Programme Director Digital Education, Nesta, said:

“Understanding and manipulating digital technology is no longer a specialist skill – it is key to creative expression, social inclusion and business creation, and is increasingly in demand across the jobs market. Yet the gap between interest in digital technologies and access to opportunities to learn digital skills is still vast. Our own research found that for every sixty young people interested in digital making only one is able to find extracurricular activities. If we want to equip a new generation with these skills, we need to provide opportunities to learn outside, as well as inside, the classroom. Libraries, with their position at the heart of the community, are perfectly placed for this.”

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