Library membership, usage, cost and Covid-19.

1. Please provide data on active membership of the library service for each year for the period 2016-2021 (for the year 2020/21, please provide all data on usage that you have up to the date you received this request)

Year Devon
2016-04-01 N/A*
2017-04-01 N/A*
2018-04-01 135,113
2019-04-01 131,848
2020-04-01 132,100
2021-04-01 72,165

2. Please provide annual usage statistics for each year for the period 2016-2021 for your library service for the following digital services. (For the year 2020/21, please provide all data on usage that you have up to the date you received this request)
a. Electronic books and comics
b. Electronic audio books

eBooks etc. eAudiobooks
2016-17 N/A* N/A*
2017-18 78,586 33,132
2018-19 98,872 52,208
2019-20 127,103 101,258
2020-21 243,001 148,524

Please also provide annual usage statistics for each year for the period 2016-2021 for your library service for physical library loans.

2016-17 2,180,394
2017-18 2,003,027
2018-19 1,835,585
2019-20 1,656,676
2020-21 461,753

3. Please provide costings for the amounts paid annually to the providers of these services in the same periods
(For Q1-3 please clarify in your answers if the figures refer to the financial or calendar year)

Financial Year Devon
2019-20 96,000
2020-21 120,000

4. Please provide information on any support services offered by your service to help library users access these electronic services (such as tablet or laptop loans, training sessions) and the costings for these.

This varies across libraries depending on community needs.  All libraries (pre and post COVID) offered ad-hoc IT support for any customer walking through the door with a query. There is no data on the average length of an enquiry of this nature (it would depend on a customer’s base level of digital literacy).

In our largest library it would be a conservative estimate that there would be an average of 20 of these types of enquiries per week.  Some libraries (pre and post COVID) run advertised drop in sessions for IT/gadget help. At Exeter library, our biggest library, this was a three hour Gadget Session once a month (3 hours of Customer Service Assistant time and supported by a volunteer in addition) and two hours of IT drop in time each week (2 x 2 hours of Customer Service Assistant time and supported by three volunteers).

There are no specific records of what was covered in each session so we are unable to provide data on the amount of this time spent specifically on supporting access to electronic services. During COVID the work from home staff worked on creating How To guides published on our website to assist customers that couldn’t access face to face support in a library.

Specific Support:

Learn My Way prior to lockdown 20-25 libraries across Devon and Torbay offered Learn My Way basic online and computer training delivered by a partner organisation. One library (Exeter as above) offered Learn My Way directly through library staff. Costs attached to the partner. Learn My Way sessions are minimal for Libraries Unlimited. We do not pay the partner organisation for this support.

Digital Volunteer Support is provided by 14 libraries across Devon and Torbay including drop-in advice sessions, IT Buddies, Tea/Coffee and IT and Code Clubs and other digital support. Any cost is attached to administration, staff involvement in marketing and staff supervision only, making it very difficult to estimate the cost.

Devon County Council Digital Champion IT support sessions are available in one library. No costs beyond providing a room free of charge.

Code Clubs and Raspberry Pi Sessions for children and young people are delivered by volunteers in eight libraries.

Fab Labs Two libraries offer an on-site Fab Lab service building digital making skills and other libraries host Fab Lab taster sessions.

Everyone Connected Devices for Carers Project During December and January 2020/21 a total of 10 new tablets and phone digital support were given to isolated carers identified by a partner organisation. The tablets were free (donated) to Libraries Unlimited and estimated staff time taken with the project was £300.

Digital Census Support During March and April 2021, staff and volunteers in 23 libraries across Devon supported library customers to complete the census online. This service was fully funded with external funding.

Six library Work Clubs offer digital skills support including completing application forms and CVs, finding work online and related digital support.

5. What advice is given to library users regarding privacy in use of digital services provided by third parties?

For third party suppliers of eBooks etc. this would be only what was provided as part of sign up / T&Cs and so on. Staff in libraries don’t add anything in this regard as standard (most wouldn’t even know, as customers can sign up at home and access these resources immediately).

The Everyone Connected device gifting project (see above) emphasised the importance of knowledge and awareness around online safety and security. Full information, including the project Privacy Statement, is available on the Devon County Council website .

The recent library Census Support project supporting people to complete the census online required individual library staff and volunteers to be trained in data protection and data governance.

The Learn My Way basic digital skills programme includes modules on being safe online and keeping data safe.

6. Please provide details regarding how the various lockdowns related to COVID have impacted on your library opening hours?

Essentially all Devon and Torbay libraries closed their doors on 24 March 2020 and none re-opened until four pilot libraries opened on 4 July 2020 (with reduced hours), three in Devon one in Torbay.

Two weeks later further ‘batches’ of libraries opened every week until all (bar three) were open. This remained the case until the November lockdown and the January – March lockdown when all (bar one) libraries reverted to Choose and Collect only. When the doors are open staff support is available where this can be provided from 2 metres away, which in practice limits IT / tablet help significantly.

Mobile libraries in Devon have been running continuous services (although reverting to Choose and Collect in November lockdown) and in January – March were off the road but offering targeted lifeline services via post or other methods.

*This information is unavailable. Big changes in the library management system meant that many old membership records were purged as part of data cleansing and data protection requirements, and reporting at a certain point of the year was not then part of our infrastructure.