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July 02, 2012


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David Mackinder

This is very disturbing.

I thought free internet access in public libraries was provided as a function of the People's Network.

I've been told variously that use of power cables is for 'health and safety' reasons, or (heaven knows how) 'to prevent internet fraud'.

David Mackinder

sorry, meant to say 'use of power cables is forbidden'

John Kirriemuir

The public libraries I've used this year in Birmingham didn't charge, though wifi seems limited to the main/central one. In Herefordshire, it's free. At Evesham, Broadway and Malvern they are free (yes, I go to a lot of public libraries) so am assuming they are free across Worcestershire.

In Warwickshire, on the other hand, they do charge several pounds an hour in some branches, though it appears to be usually free for the 30 minutes (but - how can you properly search for a job, and fully apply for it, in 30 minutes. You can't).

I do remember the charges at Stratford-on-Avon public library giving me a sharp intake of breath a few years back. And, despite all the tourist tat and Anne Hathaway cottage stuff, there are substantial areas of poverty around there.

(More) have spent 15 minutes in a phone queue to get through to a centralised Warwickshire library info service and given up - just wanted to speak to someone at Stratford direct and ask them about their charges. Which aren't posted online.

Rosemary Lynch

West Sussex charge for Internet use, even children have to pay


I heartily agree that charging for the internet is wrong wrong wrong.

David, at least in my library (in the US) the reason for very limited use of power cords is health and safety related. There are OSHA regulations about not having cords across where people walk (and I believe also about where wheeled things need to go ie library carts) that prevent the majority of the power outlets from being used. This restricted laptop power cords to one bank of outlets because I don't want an the accident from some knucklehead leaving his power converter in the middle of the floor and a full library cart going over onto one of my staff and/or his computer.

Sean Burns

It seems to me so much easier to make these changes when you think of your library users as 'customers.'

Laura Ashford

This is a definite step back for libraries which are trying to promote access for all, the restrictions seem ill - advised and is there any limit to a person's usage in a day?

Libraries stand for free access and life long learning, a non judgemental environmental for people to learn new skills at a pace that is comfortable for them - how does restriciting access and charging for services promote this?

Frank Daniels

If a public library authority which charges for internet access sets itself targets for income generation (and the Chief Librarian will have agreed to this of course) but the targets are not met will that library have to close, lose staff, lose budget funding for stock (take your pick!)?

Ray Ward

Right on, Phil! I am not online at home and am reliant on public library computers (though I am over 60, and so would qualify for free access in Barking and Dagenham). I live in Southwark (one free hour a day, but I know my local library staff and can usually get extended if no-one else wants to use the machines), and also use Westminster (one free hour per day, then there's a charge) and Camden (one free hour per day; never tried to get extended). I've also used Waltham Forest, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, and public libraries outside London, all of which seem to allow one free hour per day.

Sue Pullen

All Cornwall library members can have up to 30 minutes per day free, 1 hour for those with concessionary membership (for those in receipt of means tested benefits). We have over 20 machines in the largest of our settings and only 1 in the very smallest libraries and One Stop Shops.
Our original public computers were provided through DCMS Wolfson funding in the late 1990s and then a few years later the Gates Foundation chipped in to provide more/update them. Our most recent upgrading of the machines was accomplished by slipping it into a project to co-locate One Stop Shops into libraries. My point is that there has never been a central or local government acknowledgement that computers have to kept up to date to make them useful to customers. Why do we charge non members and longer term usage? Well we have no budget or strategy to upgrade the current set and the service is charged for maintenance and repair to the ones we have. Oh and differentiating between members and non members helps push people to join.

Libraries should have a significant role to play in digital access and literacy; but as with most other functions they fulfil, it is poorly understood by politicians and woefully under funded

maria johnson

Devon Libraries charge £2.20 per 30 mins for non members. Members get 30 mins a day free but are charged for extra time

John Kirriemuir

Found the Warwickshire public library charges for computer use. Heck :-(

For adult members; the first 30 minutes free, then it's £4 an hour.

For adult non-members; £5 an hour.

More here:


I am truly appalled by this development. Why are our public institutions positively excluding sections of the community they are supposed to be serving? For heavens sake - there are food banks handing out food to some of our local residents. How the ***l are they to access information that is only available online these days? Job vacancies, regulatory info, activities, service information etc etc etc. It's all wrong wrong wrong ...as you say.


I can understand that you are upset by this, as always it is those on low incomes who suffer. I am a librarian in South Australia, and so far we have managed not to charge for internet access. However with our budgets being cut and various levels of government only paying lip service to the social justice issues of internet access for all, I am sure it will come though I will fight it tooth and nail. Many of our government services are only really accessible online and online is really the only practical way to look for work. But those with money seldom support libraries, as they can afford to pay for their own books and their internet access. I fear the move to user pays is as inevitable as it is wrong. However don't take it lying down, run for council, form lobby groups, you are all taxpayers and you have a right to the services that you feel are important, even if your aren't the ones using them.

John Kirriemuir

Thanks for your tweet to them which clarified it's PC use as well as Internet use. So unemployed adults have to pay to use a taxpayer-funded service in so they can update their CV. Barking in more ways than one...

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