Government earmarks millions to bring public libraries into the digital age

14 Sep 2018

A computer lab in a library. Image:

The Irish Government is investing close to €8m in public libraries, enhancing the existing ICT infrastructure.

Public libraries are a vital resource for communities around the country. Now, Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring, TD, has approved a major investment of almost €8m to provide them with new ICT facilities.

€6m will come from Ring’s department, with the remainder sourced from local authorities around the country. Ring said: “This investment will enhance ICT infrastructure, create new meeting spaces with state-of-the-art technology and provide dedicated digital learning suites. The new facilities and services will attract new users of all ages to our public libraries.”

Digital transformation of public libraries

The funding includes the provision of:

  • iPads/tablets/smart devices for users and for staff to assist users
  • Computers and workstations, including image deployment technology
  • Software to support design, gaming and coding
  • Meeting-space technology
  • Podcasting equipment and workstations
  • ‘Dementia tables’, which facilitate play and learning for people with mild to severe dementia as well as those with intellectual disabilities, learning difficulties and autism
  • Mobile LCD screens with audio
  • Interactive whiteboards
  • Digital training suites

Ring noted one particular provision when announcing the launch, saying: “I am delighted to see innovative technology such as ‘dementia tables’, which include dementia and learning disability software being installed as well as virtual-reality headsets.”

The ‘Our Public Libraries 2022’ initiative was launched this May and it seeks to establish public libraries as digital resource hubs, with the hope of fostering digital skills development among citizens. The Minister added that this initial investment was only the first step in the journey towards more modern and inclusive libraries.

Other elements of the initiative include insuring library buildings are fit for purpose, raising general awareness of libraries as a resource among the public, and library staff team development and upskilling strategies. The inclusion of disadvantaged and marginalised communities and the introduction of new groups to libraries is another key focus.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects