Learn new skills at the library

The modern library offers lots of ways to throw yourself into a new interest or idea. Library customers everywhere are discovering it’s never too late to pick up valuable new skills and knowledge.

Building confidence with technology

Many of us have high-powered technology in our pockets, but not everybody feels comfortable using modern devices.

For people who didn’t grow up with computers it can be difficult to adapt to using them, and that can mean feeling left behind. From accessing council services, to shopping, to entertainment, our society increasingly runs on digital tools.

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Print and digital sit side by side at the library

Libraries play a vital role in helping more people become familiar with the digital technology that play a huge part of our lives in the 21st century. Around the country, initiatives like digital hours, digital drop-ins and silver surfer sessions help customers become more confident online.

One of those customers is Majzoub, who visits libraries in Southend-on-sea.

Majzoub's story

I’ve been going to the library for a very, very long time. English is my second language. I go to most of the libraries in the Southend area, because they might be open at different times.

I have a phone and a tablet, and they cost me a fortune - but I’ve never really used them as well as I’d like to. So when I saw a poster for Tablet Taster sessions at Westcliff library I decided to go.

It’s one of the best things about the library. Tom and Ellie, the people who run it, they’ll come to you and ask: "What do you want to know?" They answer any question I have. To some people it might be simple, but at an older age it can be confusing.

Now, I make a list of questions before every session and I take my own devices along. For my next session I’m going to ask about checking storage on my phone, controlling the torch and how to use reverse image search.

I tell my friends about the sessions - I’ve helped the library with publicity! I’m happy to do that because they’ve given me the confidence to try more with technology.

Do I need to be silent
in the library?🤔

Read answers to FAQs about libraries
“Tablet Taster sessions are one of the best things about the library. The staff answer any question I have. It’s given me the confidence to try more with technology.”
Majzoub, customerSouthend-on-sea Libraries

Local and family history

Becoming more confident with digital technology can open up a whole world of discovery.

The digitisation of genealogy records, for example, means more people than ever before can research their family tree. And the good news is you can access tools like Ancestry and FindMyPast for free at UK libraries.

A man sits at a table in a library working on a laptop computer.
The library offers learning opportunities for everyone

Since libraries are open to everyone, it means anyone can trace their ancestry by accessing information like birth records, census data and obituaries going back centuries. Increasingly, libraries are helping with this demand by providing guidance on how to get the best from these powerful digital tools.

“My library provides a couple of really useful reference books which help you understand some of the terminology you’ll find in census data,” says Rachel, a customer at Wakefield Libraries.

A little knowledge on how information used to be recorded can unlock stories and information lost to history. “Someone new to research might not realise just how many people used to have a ‘given name’ that was different from the name they were actually known by,” points out Rachel.

It’s not uncommon for someone researching their past to similarly develop a curiosity about the area where they live. The UK’s regions are host to dozens of local history organisations, many of which are closely linked to their libraries.

In Lancashire, for example, interest in the district’s past extends to the richness of its language. As local dialects come under threat, groups like the Lancashire Dialect Group at Euxton Library provide an opportunity for residents to gather and share their interest with likeminded people.

Learn more for free at the library

  1. Ancestry and FindMyPast

    Both Ancestry and Findmypast offer special ‘library editions’ of their powerful genealogy databases which you can use for free at the library. An increasing number of libraries are supplementing this access with guidance on how best to use the tools to research your family tree.

  2. Business & Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC)

    Since opening at the British Library in 2006, the Business & Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) has expanded its presence dozens of public libraries across the UK. It provides free, impartial support for entrepreneurs and people thinking of setting up their own business. Local branches offer invaluable training and networking opportunities.

  3. Pressreader

    Pressreader lets you read magazines and newspapers on its app and wesite. You can use it without logging in at your local library. You can also access it from anywhere by using your library card details.

  4. Living Knowledge Network

    The British Library’s Living Knowledge Network includes dozens of UK public libraries, and provides a way for more people around the country to access British Library exhibitions. Regional exhibitions will often include local artefacts and programming that bring subjects to life for communities. The Living Knowledge Network also offers streamed and recorded cultural events for free.

  5. Language resources

    As well as a wealth of books to help you learn a new language, many library services deliver free online language courses through a partnership with Transparent Language. Some, like Oxfordshire Libraries, also offer Language Cafes where you can practise in an informal setting.

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of discovery

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