BID: textos universitaris de Biblioteconomia i Documentació

Número 10, juny 2003

Training for public librarians in Wales as part of the UK's People's Network: some experiences from Aberystwyth

[Versió catalana]

Lucy A. Tedd

Department of Information Studies, University of Wales Aberystwyth
Editor of Program: electronic library and information systems

Abstract [Resum] [Resumen]

Using as a starting point the report, New Library :the People's Network (1997), the article delves into the developments in the UK, and especially in Wales, related to the improvement of information and communication technologies for public libraries. Following an overall description of the project, the author focusses in on training programmes for library staff, which are a key element for putting into action the People's Network.

1  Background to the People's Network

In 1997 the then Library and Information Commission (LIC) produced a report New Library :The People's Network which set out the direction that public libraries in the UK should take to meet the challenges brought about by the impact of the information and communication technologies (ICT) on citizens and communities. The report argued for the transformation of libraries and what they do and made the case for “re-equipping them and reskilling their staff so that they can continue to fulfil their widely valued role as intermediary, guide, interpreter and referral point” (New Library: the People's Network, 1997). It was noted that since the development of the public library movement in the UK during the nineteenth century, the public library has been perceived as an institution with a major role to play in support of the formal and informal education of individuals and groups within the community. Public libraries are used by over half the people in the UK and it was felt that such institutions would be ideally placed (as what some refer to as “our street corner universities”) to help people become aware of, and use new methods of communication and the Web. In addition the report indicated that the public libraries of tomorrow would:

In 1998 a more detailed report indicating how the People's Network would be developed was produced (Building the Library Network, 1998). This report was structured into three parts to cover the network itself, the content and digitisation issues and the training necessary for library staff. Full details and likely costs for implementing the network were provided and much of what has happened in the intervening years of the People's Network project can be traced back to these two reports.

The funding for the People's Network from the UK government has been £170m. in total. Of this, £100m has been for the “infrastructure” of computers and communications so that all public libraries, depending on their size, have between 2–50 PCs for public use. Some libraries also provide other equipment such as printers, scanners and videoconferencing facilities as well as specialist hardware/software for disabled users. The allocation of funds to the countries in the UK was made according to the number of libraries and existing provision. Wales received £6.5m whilst England received £77.5m, Scotland £11.5m and Northern Ireland £4.5.m. In addition some £50m has been allocated for digitisation projects aimed at creating a wide range of new lifelong learning resources. Grants of £14,000 to £4m have been allocated to 37 consortia and 34 individual projects as outlined on the People's Network website ( Examples of projects in Wales include:

The final £20m is being used for appropriate training of the 40,000 staff working in UK public libraries to enable them to support the users of all the ICT-based services and to help them find the information they need.

All these monies have been made available from the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) which is the organisation charged with distributing funds acquired from the UK's National Lottery and forms part of a bigger funding programme - Community Access to Lifelong Learning (CALL). The CALL initiative aims to encourage more adults into learning and places a focus on socially excluded individuals and communities.

General information about current developments related to the People's Network are provided on the main website at A study into the use being made of the workstations in the public libraries, based on returns of a survey (with a 60% response rate) in late 2002, found:

The People's Network project is managed as a partnership between Resource: the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, NOF and the Library and Information Councils of the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The responsibility for co-ordinating the planning, implementation and development lies with Resource with the funds being administered by NOF and the devolved administrations. All the partner organisations involved meet regularly. As noted earlier one of the aims of the People's Network has been to enable people to access government information. Within Wales this means access to information from the Welsh Assembly as well as from the UK Government in London. In 2001 the e-Minister for Wales launched the Welsh Assembly's Information Age Strategic Framework for Wales —Cymru Arlein or Online for a Better Wales (

2  Training and the People's Network

Based on a study of the ICT needs of public library staff, the report which outlined the building of the People's Network project prescribed the following training outcomes for all staff (professional and other) working in libraries:

The “basic” ICT skills are being acquired by most authorities through some form of training for the ECDL (see which defines a syllabus of seven modules covering aspects such as word processing, spreadsheets, databases and so on. The training is provided in a range of ways including face-to-face courses in local colleges, face-to-face courses in the libraries, using CD-ROM training packages and so on. Training for the other outcomes is provided by a number of organisations as described later.

In addition more advanced training is to be undertaken by some staff so as to satisfy the need for staff in public libraries to assume the following roles:

The allocation of funds for training purposes was determined by allocating £400 for each public library staff member with an extra £45 per head to be used as dictated by local circumstances and some other special monies available to cover library staff in rural areas, translation of training materials into Welsh and so on. Library authorities had to complete Training Plans outlining how they were going to use the money allocated to reach the expected training outcomes for each library staff member.

Individual library authorities have been free to “package” their own training programme and some 130 different training providers are listed on the website ( There is a wide range of types of provider covering:

In Wales there are 22 public library authorities serving the three million or so people in the country. Details of the training providers being used, based on returns in April 2002 are provided at the relevant part of the website ( As would be expected there is variation in the solutions adopted:

3  Training programme developed by DIS/UWA

The Department of Information Studies at the University of Wales Aberystwyth (DIS/UWA) has evolved from CLW (College of Librarianship Wales, 1964–1989) and DILS (Department of Information and Library Studies, 1989–2002). It is the only library and information studies department in Wales and has had a major role over the years in training and developing staff for the Welsh library community, including offering some course modules through the medium of Welsh.

DIS/UWA has been a pioneer in the development of distance learning (DL) courses in library and information studies in the UK and in 1993 an Open Learning Unit was created within the department to provide specialist advice and support in the creation of appropriate materials and running DL courses for students. A range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses is offered via DL techniques covering, for example, Information and Library Studies, Health Information Management, Archive Administration and Records Management. Currently there are over 700 students from all over the world studying in this mode at DIS/UWA. Also, between 1999–2001 staff at DIS/UWA were involved in a European Union funded project (known as PROLIB) involving the development of open learning course materials for librarians in Slovakia (Dahl et al., 2002).

In early 2000 staff at DIS/UWA were approached by staff working in public libraries in Wales about the possibility of developing and running training programmes as part of the People's Network. The main needs were for training programmes to cover:

a) Basic ICT skills
It was felt that there were plenty of organisation within Wales which were capable of running courses to cover ECDL-level material and that it would not be appropriate for DIS/UWA to develop courses in this area.

b) Supplementary training for all library staff
An analysis of the needs of the trainees was carried out in order to decide on an appropriate training approach for this and the factors considered included:

Following discussions amongst interested staff in the department the approach chosen was to develop open learning modules which would enable trainees to learn at the time, pace and place which best meets their circumstances. Also the hope was that library authorities could fit the training programme to their particular constraints. Four open learning modules have been produced to address the training outcomes for the supplementary training:

The exact content of each module was developed to meet the more detailed expected outcomes prescribed for the training programme. For instance on completion of the first module trainees are expected to be able to:

Each module comprises a workbook with printed material, Internet-based exercises and activities (with printed feedback), a glossary of terms used and a supporting website. Each module has been designed to be completed within 15-20 hours, although this depends, to some extent, on the speed of connection from the trainee's workstation to the Internet. All the modules include links to a large number of useful websites, many concentrating on Wales and Welsh issues, and so much more time could be spent exploring the issues further. The modules were developed by teaching staff in the department who had experience of developing materials for a distance learning mode of delivery. All modules were also “piloted” to ensure that the exercises and activities could reasonably be accomplished in the given time. Co-ordination of the production of the modules, organising their translation into Welsh, etc. were some of the tasks carried out by the Development Officer for the project (a post funded for 3 days a week for 2000–1 and full time for 2001–2). Trainees work through the open learning modules at their own pace and individual library authorities are at liberty to decide how this is best organised. It was suggested that it would be a good idea for each authority to have a “mentor” (or mentors) who acts as a local point of contact for an individual completing the module. To assist the mentors, special mentor training sessions have been held at DIS/UWA and a mentors' training pack was produced. Many people in Wales speak Welsh and extra funding has been received to translate all the modules (and the accompanying website) into Welsh so that those members of library staff who wish to can undertake the training in Welsh. The translation was carried out by staff in the department.

c) Advanced training for middle managers In order to satisfy the needs for the more advanced training of middle managers it was decided to hold face-to-face one day workshops in Aberystwyth to cover the five roles as described earlier (Net Navigator, Information Technology Gatekeeper etc.). Each workshop comprises a mixture of lectures, group exercises and individual practical work and provides an opportunity for attendees from different authorities to discuss their experiences. Supporting printed materials are given to each attendee. The feedback obtained from the evaluation forms completed by attendees at the end of each workshop has been used in improving future workshops. Again detailed outcomes were developed for each workshop and this is an example of that specified for the Educator workshop:

When trainees have completed this module they should be able to:

The training programme from DIS/UWA, known as Cyfle Newydd - New Opportunity, was launched in February 2001. A training day for mentors was held and the first open learning module was made available. Since then all the modules have been developed, translated into Welsh and the supporting website maintained. The first face-to-face workshop was held in September 2001 and since then some 20 other workshops have been run. A second day for mentors was held in May, 2002.

4  Experiences from the training offered

The authorities have until March 2004 to complete their training of staff and so there has been a variation in requirements and use of materials developed by DIS/UWA. In some authorities staff have worked through all the modules. In other authorities staff are just starting on the first module and the rest are “somewhere” in-between.

Thirteen of the 22 authorities within Wales have chosen to use DIS/UWA open learning modules for their supplementary training. Some of these are small authorities (e.g. Merthyr acquired 10 copies of each module) and others are much larger (e.g. Swansea acquired 100 copies of each module). In total some 1200 open learning modules have been distributed to date (February 2003). Prior to using the modules suitable staff from each authority attended a mentor training day at Aberystwyth to to become aware of the necessary mentoring skills. Authorities have varied in the ways that they have approached the mentoring process. The response received from the trainees and their mentors to the open learning modules has been very positive. Libraries have faced a major challenge of providing training for all staff (with no cover for staff if they attend training courses away) and so the use of distance learning materials has been very beneficial. The comment from one mentor stated: “ability for staff to progress at their own pace is very important” was echoed by many others.

No formal evaluation of the use being made of the modules has been undertaken as the process is ongoing. However at the feedback session for mentors held in May 2002 and some of the comments made included:

The one day face-to-face training workshops for middle managers working in public libraries in Wales have also proved to be popular with eleven authorities so far having sent staff. Some of these authorities (e.g. Newport, Conwy) had not used DIS/UWA for their supplementary training and other authorities (e.g. Torfaen) used DIS/UWA and another training provider for the advanced training. The workshops comprise a mixture of lectures, group work, practical exercises on the computers and discussions and English is the main language used. However many of the trainers are Welsh speaking and sometimes group work is carried out in Welsh and advice given to individuals in practical sessions is given in Welsh. Some attendees would have liked there to have been more Welsh in these sessions. A limit of 24 trainees was applied for each workshop and the original plan was to have a minimum of 10 trainees signed up to each workshop. In practice we sometimes (for various reasons) had to run workshops with less than 10 attendees. In total about 270 people attended the 21 workshops held up to January 2003. If there is demand, some further workshops will be held later in 2003. Here are some of the positive comments from the evaluation forms completed by the trainees:

As might be expected there were some negative comments:

Where possible comments from the evaluation forms were used to adjust workshop content and structure for subsequent workshops. It had always to be remembered that it is not easy to satisfy all the trainees all of the time, given their variation in backgrounds.

Fourteen members of DIS/UWA staff have been involved directly in developing and delivering the materials used in Cyfle Newydd. This has enabled them to form closer links with members of the profession within Wales and to become more actively aware of all the changes underway in public libraries as a result of the People's Network. We believe that this has been beneficial for the public library staff, the teaching staff and, in turn, the students studying courses within the department.


Brophy, Peter (2003). People's network: a turning point for public libraries [online] <> [Available: 15/02/2003].

Building the New Library Network: a report to government (1998). London: Library and Information Commission. <> [Available: 15/02/2003].

Dahl, Kerstin; Francis, Simon; Tedd, Lucy A.; Tetrevová, Milena; Zihlavníková, Elena (2002). “The planning, delivery and evaluation of a distance learning training course for professional librarians in Slovakia: the PROLIB project”. Library hi tech, 20 (3), p. 340-351

New Library: The People's Network (1997). London: Library and Information Commission. <> [Available: 15/02/2003].

Raven, Debbie (2001). “The big training boost.” Library Association Record, 103 (10), p. 620–621.

Small, G. S. (2001). “Making the training work.” Public library journal, 16 (4), p. 136–138.

Received: 15/02/2003   Accepted: 18/03/2003