Not like riding a bike: How public libraries facilitate older people’s digital inclusion during the Covid-19 pandemic

Biddy Casselden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The UK digital divide, whereby sections of society have limited use of digital technology, results in unequal access to information, knowledge, goods and services. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the push to a digital world, and this has challenged people who suffer digital exclusion, including older people, who are more likely to lack digital skills and understanding. Public libraries play a key role in tackling digital exclusion, providing digital skills training and support, and access to equipment and Wi-Fi thereby enhancing the social inclusion of marginalised groups. During the Covid-19 pandemic innovative solutions were piloted to help tackle digital exclusion and social isolation despite closure of face-to-face library interventions, particularly during lockdowns. This article explores evaluation of the Housing Plus Pilot, providing remote digital skills training and support to older people living in sheltered housing in Newcastle upon Tyne during 2021, delivered through partnership between Your Homes Newcastle, and Newcastle City Libraries. A qualitative case study approach examined a small sample of older people’s perceptions regarding the success of the pilot, and their digital literacy before and after training using semi-structured interviews via telephone. Findings showed that the pilot enabled older people to gain the necessary digital knowledge and skills required to boost confidence in becoming digitally literate citizens. Tackling digital fears and enabling them to reinforce learning through the provision of their own tablet, and free access to Wi-Fi in their sheltered housing provided a springboard for digital behaviour change. Use of a social setting in sheltered housing not only kept older people safe during socially distanced times, but also provided a supportive environment in which to learn and practice skills, together with a step-by-step training approach that focussed on the individual, which was wellsuited to this demographic.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Librarianship and Information Science
Early online date8 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2022

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