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Public Libraries: An opportunity for lifelong learning and digital inclusion

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Public libraries are dynamic and inclusive spaces accessible to all that connect local citizens to lifelong learning opportunities. Among the many significant roles that public libraries play, they empower EU citizens with digital skills – contributing to closing the digital skills gap. 
Public libraries are the first port of call for many adult learners. In the EU, over 2.3 million people a year attend a digital literacy course in their library, learning anything from basic digital skills to coding. In this context, they provide peaceful and safe environments for adults in vulnerable communities who search for learning opportunities in non-formal contexts. By supporting their social and economic integration, public libraries significantly contribute to bridging the digital divide, aligning their efforts to DigiCo’s mission of ensuring equal opportunities to individuals excluded from the digital transition. 
Public libraries welcome every day a diverse group of citizens. More than 100 million people visit over 65,000 public libraries every year in countless communities across the European Union. As well as a vast array of books, computers and other resources, library users benefit from the expert teaching and guidance of librarians who act as facilitators and help support their learning and open new worlds for them. This way, public libraries support literacy and lifelong learning, becoming a great equaliser that builds community and offers self-development opportunities to their visitors. 

The ADELE project (Advancing Digital Empowerment of Libraries in Europe): 
Today, digital content offers users the possibility to connect to databases, e-books and archives from anywhere, thus accessing a wider range of information. However, the adult education sector has been challenged by this fast-changing world, as information about training possibilities is unfortunately still not reaching the learners who need it most.

In this context, Public Libraries 2030 (PL2030) takes part in the Erasmus+ project ADELE, which aims to foster a transition in the use of digital tools, skills, and knowledge through the acquisition and development of digital competencies in the field of non-formal adult education. To achieve this, the consortium will develop a free and customisable web-based tool to help public libraries and other organisations active in adult education reflect on their use of digital technologies and how they can integrate new ones. The tool will be developed and tested in over 100 public libraries across Europe.

As part of the ADELE project, PL2030 led a cycle of webinars on the digital readiness of public libraries in Europe. Our Program Manager Léa Ichikawa spoke in the 3rd webinar focusing on digital skills training activities in public libraries, on September 26th, where she shared best practices of digital skills training at the European level. She highlighted the need to adopt a targeted and community-based approach to digital skills training, a best practice that can be adopted for both non-formal education settings and public libraries alike.  Léa recommended the following practices to be taken on by any organisations that want to run inclusive digital skills training:
  • Adopting a learner-centred approach to training, where specific needs and barriers of target groups are addressed responsively.
  • Participation and curriculum building with end learners from an early stage to ensure relevance and application of skills acquired to their daily life
  • Bringing digital inclusion where individuals are, that is integrating digital tools and digital awareness in services individuals use daily (i.e.: libraries)

Public Libraries 2030 (PL2030)
PL2030 is a Brussels-based organisation that connects innovative library practices while building recognition of the contribution of the library sector in EU institutions. Among its multifaceted responsibilities, PL2030 showcases the important role public libraries play as primary gateways to tackle pressing social challenges, such as the reduction of the digital divide. 
Through their collective approach to innovative library practices, their advocacy work and their community vision, public libraries are progressively earning well-deserved acclaim for their work on equity and inclusivity. If you also want to leave your stamp on reducing the digital skills gap, join our Collective