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29 July 2016

Go online for free at your local library

Online Library

You can now go online for free at your local library in Cumbria, where free access to both computers and the internet is now available.

Cumbria County Council has introduced free Wi-Fi at libraries in Cumbria and is now rolling out free access to computers across the county’s library network.

Visitors to libraries in Cumbria can now use public computers free of charge for up to two hours each day and library staff will also help people brush up their IT skills.

Public computers in libraries can be used for a variety of purposes, from searching for jobs, online banking and tracing family trees, to developing IT skills such as word processing, creating spreadsheets, presentations and database applications.

A number of county council services can also be accessed online, including applying for a school place, reporting a highway fault, booking an appointment with a registrar and applying for a blue badge.

Councillor Ian Stewart, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member responsible for Community Services, said: “Libraries in Cumbria are not just about books, they are community hubs offering all sorts of services and activities. I’m delighted our libraries are now providing free access to computers and the internet, which will especially help people who don’t have a laptop or PC at home.

“So much is done online in this digital age, whether it’s searching and applying for jobs, research for school homework or just keeping in touch with family and friends through social media. This valuable free service in our libraries will give more people in Cumbria the opportunity to make the most of the internet. You don’t need to be a computer whizz either - staff in our libraries offer training and support, like at Barrow library which has won an award for digital excellence.”



Free access to PCs and the internet is already benefiting library users across the county.

In Allerdale, there has been a 25% increase in the usage of library PCs since the introduction of two hours free use. At peak times, all 16 PCs are now used by library customers.

Community Education uses the PCs in Workington Library to run courses to upskill people referred from the Job Centre. On completing the course many of the attendees continue to use the library PCs for job searching and further study. They had already formed an informal support network before the two hours of free PC use was introduced, but the extension means they have more time to support each other, helping reduce the feeling of isolation and building confidence in their skills

 In Barrow, usage of library PCs has almost trebled since the introduction of two hours’ free PC use, demonstrating how popular it is with existing and new customers. With the introduction of free Wi-Fi at Barrow library we are seeing more and more new customers using the library to work on laptops, tablets or just to use their phone.  One customer who recently finished college has now brought his laptop to the library and says the service is brilliant - he can continue with his studies  and he loves being in the library building to do it.  Other customers who are new to tablet use come here to read their emails etc  and if they get stuck they like the fact that they can ask for help from library staff.

Barrow library’s Wi-Fi Wednesday drop-in laptop/tablet help session, launched in January 2015, has been extremely popular with the public and we have helped people develop their confidence and online skills to get the best use out of their devices and launch them into the online world, such as watching catch-up TV, using Skype to keep in touch with family abroad, even booking rounds of golf.

 In Carlisle, Mrs Watchman booked an IT taster session as a complete beginner to computers and the internet after seeing a display in the library. She wanted to find a rescue dog to rehome as a companion for her now that she is on her own. She didn’t want a young pup as she was advancing in years, and wanted a dog with whom to share her twilight years. When she contacted animal rescue centres by phone, she was advised to have a look online at their selection rather than visiting the centres. She had no experience with computers or the internet, so registered for a Learn My Way taster session to learn the basics. Having the option to use the computer in the library for a couple of hours at a time, as well as attending weekly group sessions, has allowed her to build up her confidence and learn at her own pace. Mrs Watchman found her perfect canine companion - a lovely 6 year old Collie-Jack Russell cross called Zebedee. Although the rescue centre staff warned her that he may be skittish and had been in and out of homes for a while, Zebedee has been calm, happy and settled. Clearly Zebedee has found his person!

One gentleman has been tracing his family tree and has got back as far as 1600. He has even offered a member of the library team a taster on the Ancestry website! 

In Copeland, access to free Wi-Fi is enabling people to develop skills, whether for employability or social purposes, just by dropping into their local library.  To give those who are new to using Wi-Fi, or need a little bit of guidance, support or inspiration for the best use of their own tablet or smartphone, free monthly sessions are now running at Whitehaven Library. Call in or contact Whitehaven Library to book your place on the next one.

Our Barclay’s ‘Tea and Teach’ sessions are now much more flexible because of the Wi-Fi, allowing customers to bring in their portable devices and receive advice on how to access specific sites, enabling libraries to promote the large range of online resources we provide.


Regarding the 2 hours free PC use, in Whitehaven we have seen an increase in computer usage, the 2 hours giving customers longer to complete forms including Universal Job Match.


In Eden, the rollout of the two hours free PC usage pilot in Eden Libraries has been a huge success. Compared to the same three month period last year 68 more people have used the PCs and the hours the PCs have been in use has increased by 1,135.

The improved access to Wi-Fi in Penrith Library and the addition of this facility in the branch libraries has been very well received. Users are now able to bring their own laptops, tablet and phones into the libraries and receive a reliable service.

These two initiatives have greatly enhanced our digital capacity and service.

In South Lakeland, introducing 2 hours of free public PC use and free Wi-Fi access have improved library services. In Kendal Library we deliver about a hundred computer sessions monthly. They are aimed at people who have no previous experience in using digital technology or know a little bit but do not feel confident enough to use ICT.  One lady who has been taking part in sessions on her tablet using the library Wi-Fi has commented that these sessions are wonderful and help to improve her wellbeing. “They keep me going,” she says.

Another regular customer said that free access to the internet in the library gives him “freedom to have more of an outlook on the world. It also gives more time to complete searches without time running out.” He says that extra hours of internet access a week give him extra hours to practise and improve his ICT skills.



You can now go online for free at your local library in Cumbria, where free access to both computers and the internet is now available.