On the 11th February 2016 Lord Greaves asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of the Local Government Finance Settlement on the provision of libraries”. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Minister has twice mentioned the changing nature of libraries. Of course, they are not just about books. Nowadays, they are a major and vital source for internet access, especially in poorer areas, where people need them to apply for jobs and where fewer households have broadband. Especially in rural areas where broadband coverage is much lower, they are a vital part of rural sustainability. The Government are rolling out broadband very quickly, and that is encouraging, but it does need time. What support are they giving to those vital online centres, many of which are closely related to libraries or in libraries, both for the sake of heritage but also for the sake of our economy?
Baroness Neville-Rolfe: The internet is absolutely vital, and obviously vital to these hubs which are bringing libraries and other services together. By May, 99% of libraries will have wi-fi for the customers to use, and 1,000 of the wi-fi connections have been provided through grants from the DCMS, for exactly the sort of reason that the right reverend Prelate articulated.