The UK Government’s Budget announcement that £7.4 million would be made available for Wi-Fi in libraries is a vital step into the future in terms of mass community connectivity, according to Wi-Fi provider WiFi SPARK.
WiFi SPARK currently provides Wi-Fi for many libraries including those in Birmingham (pictured), Liverpool and Southwark. The announcement could mean an estimated £49,000 injection for each authority to invest in Wi-Fi access.
Less than half of all libraries in England are believed to have public Wi-Fi access, according to figures released in December last year by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
Dean Moody from WiFi SPARK, said: “Libraries have redeveloped over the past decade to become vibrant community focal points for information and education. It’s inconceivable that Wi-Fi doesn’t play a part in this – yet we know that libraries are strapped for cash, having suffered massive cuts from the councils that run them over the last five years. We very much welcome the Government’s commitment to helping them out in this way.”
WiFi SPARK provides Wi-Fi for the brand new Library of Birmingham, which opened in 2013. This state-of-the-art building provides free and fast visitor internet access throughout.
The Library of Birmingham was voted Britain’s favourite new building 2014 in a BBC poll and was the most visited cultural destination outside London in 2014. In its first year of operation nearly 5,000 people logged onto the free Wi-FI every month.
Moody added: “Library Wi-Fi isn’t just about internet access for people bringing in their devices. It is used to search and reserve books, to join the library, study, use social media, research family and local history and get information about events and news in the area. Of course with the WiFi SPARK system all the access is filtered, to protect the library and young users.
“Not everyone is fortunate enough to have internet access or even a suitable study environment at home,” he continued. “WiFi SPARK’s service is very easy to connect to and use, and really helps libraries promote social inclusion. As part of the service, we also supply marketing materials including window stickers, posters and leaflets to help get people connected as well as provide training to staff and a 24/7 end user helpdesk.”
The company said that integrating WiFi SPARK’s solution also helps libraries understand more about their customers through its reporting and analytics platform, as well as prompt users to participate in identified or anonymous surveys.