Libraries and digital literacy
The digital divide is becoming increasingly visible: For various reasons, it is not possible for many people to use digital communication technology confidently, or they can do so only with great difficulty. This means that information, debates and, increasingly, many essential day-to-day services remain closed to them. Berlin urgently needs modernized infrastructure in order to open up access to digital processes for all segments of the population, regardless of income and education. Berlin’s public libraries and the Technologiestiftung Berlin want to meet this need.
Helping people to help themselves is a matter of course for public libraries, and this extends to helping people navigate the digital space as well. Municipal utilities, insurance companies and the Berlin and federal public administrations are increasingly offering their services online. For this reason, it takes personal assistance as well as good infrastructure to be able to reach people who have trouble navigating web apps, who do not own a computer or smartphone, or who do own a computer or smartphone but struggle to use them.
The “Citizen Service Terminals” project aims to develop solutions to counteract the threat of exclusion from the digital society. These possible solutions will be tested out and developed further in the project.
Together with the Technologiestiftung Berlin, the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin started a one-year pilot phase of the project in November 2019. In 2020, three different libraries – the America Memorial Library, the Buch district library and the Neukölln district central library – will test out prototypes as part of the project. To ensure library patrons receive the necessary assistance with using the terminals, the project is also developing and conducting educational workshops to train library staff. The goal is that in the future, each library will have at least one expert on staff designated to support users of the citizen terminals. After the test phase has been completed and evaluated, the next step will be to install a Citizen Services Terminal in one public library in each district of Brelin.
The Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (ZLB), which is responsible for the Verbund der Öffentlichen Bibliotheken, and the Technologiestiftung Berlin are developing a pilot project. Digital participation should possible for all, regardless of previous knowledge and prerequisites, even for people who are unable to use digital technologies, or who have significant difficulties doing so.
Planning and organization
Three libraries in Berlin (Buch, Kreuzberg and Neukölln) will participate in the prototype phase. Each location will have a fully-equipped, private workspace available, accompanied by library employees who are able to support the usage of the workspace. The employees who supervise the workspace will receive targeted training within the project framework, so that they can help users learn how to request and process government services online, such as: applying for a certificate of good conduct (e.g. a background check), applying for day care center vouchers, requesting appointments at the citizen services office, etc.
Library employees will not be expected to offer specialist or legal advice, but rather to advise and support patrons with the usage of the terminals and in learning the necessary skills to use these digital offerings (like how to search for and find information).
The pilot project aims to find out
- exactly what the demand for such offers is.
- what support users need for online processes.
- which types of programs oriented toward building digital skills are most needed.
- which online services are available for Berliners and how usable they are.
- how service offers can be developed further.
- what the work spaces themselves can and should actually look like.
- how digital sovereignty can be strengthened.
- what and how this project can contribute to the realm of digital public services.
A cooperation between: Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin (ZLB), which is responsible for the Verbund der öffentlichen Bibliotheken, and the Technologiestiftung Berlin
Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin
Referentin des Vorstands | Generaldirektors
Ideation & Prototyping Lab
UX/UI Research & Design
Dr. Sebastian Meier
Ideation & Prototyping Lab
Lead Data Scientist
Edmundo Galindo will be happy to answer any questions about this project.