Hampshire Libraries awarded £250,000 to loan tablet computers

Hampshire County Council’s Library Service will launch a tablet computer lending service for disadvantaged people to help tackle social isolation and improve digital literacy, after being awarded nearly £250,000 from Arts Council England.

Up to one hundred 3G enabled tablets will be purchased for the year-long project and will be available for eligible residents throughout Hampshire for a four week loan period.

The County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson, said: “This is wonderful news. Investment in digital technologies is a key part of our Library Strategy to ensure Hampshire Libraries meet customers’ demands for a modern service, including helping to reach disadvantaged communities. We also know how effective technology can be to tackle social isolation and connect people to the outside world. This funding from Arts Council England will help us improve levels of digital literacy, health and wellbeing in Hampshire.”

The tablets will be pre-loaded with relevant online library services, and useful applications linking to themes such as health and well being, money management, and information about local communities and services.

Five part-time co-ordinators will be recruited to run the project known as Library DOTS (Digital; Options, Training and Support) and train and support residents in using the tablets. The tablets will be targeted at people and places experiencing disadvantage, which will include social and digital isolation, lone parenting, people on low incomes, and people for whom English is not their first language.

It’s estimated around 770 library customers and their families will benefit. Residents will need to join the library to take part, if they’re not already members.

Hampshire Libraries were awarded £238,324 – one of 30 local authority library services across the country to be awarded grants from the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation Fund, funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and designed and managed by Arts Council England.

The 12-month project will start as soon as the tablets have been purchased and the co-ordinators are in post.

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