Libraries are often an overlooked part of society, but when you think about it they're pretty amazing places: shelves groaning with books ranging from weighty novels to chick-lit that you can just pick up and take away for free. Just make sure you return them on time.
Now, in an effort to increase the free brilliance of libraries, the government is supporting a £7.1m fund so that libraries across England can offer free WiFi.
Libraries without free WiFi will be given priority, while those with WiFi below the recommended specification can apply for funding to upgrade the service.
The fund will be managed by Arts Council England and the goal is to provide a free WiFi service to all English libraries by March 2016.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey welcomed the plan as a vital step in digitising libraries and meeting the demands of modern citizens.
“Ensuring that communities across England have access to free WiFi boosts the digital economy and enables more people to take advantage of everything the internet has to offer,” he said.
“By channelling the support through libraries, we can ensure that this opportunity to become digitally aware is available to the whole community.”
Brian Ashley, director of libraries at Arts Council England, added that it is important to maintain the social inclusion that libraries provide in the digital era.
“Libraries are excellent community hubs that bring people together, and we hope that free WiFi will encourage more people to use and enjoy their local libraries,” he said.
The move comes as part of efforts by the public and private sectors to spread WiFi services as far as possible into all aspects of society, ranging from the London Underground to sports arenas and museums.
Libraries that are given funding will have to avoid getting overzealous with any filters they deploy, though, as the British Library ran into trouble when its filters ended up banning Shakespeare's Hamlet after it ruled the language too "colourful".
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