Skip to main content

Public Libraries

Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


If she will make a statement on the implementation of the Government's policy of ensuring that all public libraries are online. [107056]

The £100 million lottery funding for the people's network programme has enabled 4,085 libraries in the UK to be connected to the internet, including all the libraries in my right hon. Friend's constituency. That represents 99 per cent. of libraries in England, 95 per cent. in Scotland, and 100 per cent. in Wales and Northern Ireland. Only 39 English and 30 Scottish libraries have still to be connected, and we expect all but two to be online by summer 2003. That is a significant achievement.

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Gateshead council on not only the people's network project but the lending time project? Does he agree that, taken together, they mean that not only is the policy of bringing libraries online being fully undertaken, but that the number of local people who can develop their computer skills and gain access to the facilities has greatly increased through work with volunteers? Is not that one of the many reasons why Newcastle/Gateshead would be an excellent capital of culture?

I could not possibly comment on my right hon. Friend's last question. Nevertheless, what is happening in Gateshead mirrors events throughout the country. Libraries are perceived, not in the traditional sense as places where one can simply borrow books or go to read, but as true resource centres for developing the skills of my right hon. Friend's constituents and others. Many people are taking advantage of the £100 million investment and libraries have developed well beyond their service of simply lending books.