Universal Information Offer
Sally McMahon
Executive Lead
Society of Chief Librarians
Universal Information Offer –
Linked to Assisted Digital
The UIO seeks to position public libraries
so that they are seen as one of the natural
places to offer support to citizens
accessing government information and
services, and so result in the
commissioning of public libraries by
Government to deliver ‘Assisted Digital
Assisted Digital Services Definition
Assisted digital support is for users who are not able to use
digital services without help. 18% of UK adults are offline
Those needing Assisted Digital are those who:
• won’t ever be able to use the digital service
independently and will always need assisted digital
• could use the digital service independently, but will need
assisted digital support at the beginning to build their
confidence in using the service
Assisted Digital support will also develop people’s capacity
to use services online on their own in future
Public Libraries are suited to
provide assisted digital services
Existing national network
Local access points
Trusted places and people
User focused
Digital champions & trusted intermediaries
Strong local and national partnerships
What is the Universal Information
• Reaffirms public libraries’ role to
provide citizen’s information as part of
our statutory duty
• Supports people to access
information and services online in lifecritical areas such as careers and job
seeking, health, personal financial
information and benefits.
What is the Universal Information
• Brings together government and nongovernmental sources of information,
which have been researched by
information professionals in public
libraries, giving a level of quality
assurance to the user.
• Ensures that public library staff and
volunteers are continually developing their
skills to provide help to people accessing
information and services.
Key Components
• National information sources to an
assured standard are made available
• An assured standard of workforce skills
and knowledge to meet expectations is
• That the technology used will support easy
access to the information, be available
through public libraries across the country
and be sustainable.
Way we are working
• Steering group:
• Working groups:
Advocacy, content, IT, workforce
• National workshops
Current Work Streams
Four strands of work supported by working
• Advocacy
• Workforce development
• Infrastructure
• Content development
• In addition a research strand
Content - Progress
• The content working group has
researched and agreed the main
online information sources under six
core headings
• Every public library authority has
been asked to supply local links for
each of these subject areas, and
these are now being collected
Subjects covered
• Benefits
• Business and Enterprise
• Health and Wellbeing
• Jobs, Careers and Skills
• Rights and Citizenship
• Your Money
Infrastructure - Progress
• Written specification for infrastructure
• Bookmark website launched with National
• Workshop with GDS and GOV.UK as
‘critical friend’
• Working on creating a facility to enable
people to move from the national sources
to local links
Workforce Development - Progress
A major piece of research has been completed
• Role of Public Libraries in delivering
supported access to government services
and information online
• Skills and competencies for library digital
champions to support customer digital
• Results of a Skills Audit of the customer
facing library workforce across England and
Wales and the identification of staff
confidence levels
Workforce Development - Progress
• Framework of knowledge skills and
behaviours agreed, and mapped against:
• LSIS/LARMIS National Occupational
• CILIP work on Professional Knowledge
and Skills Base (PKSB)
Skills Audit Report
• Focused on the competence & confidence of
• Snapshot of the workforce & baseline information
• Over 8,550 people (44% of the workforce) from 120
authorities (69% of PLAs) completed the survey
• Report of national results has been published
• Each library authority can have their own results
• Workforce development group have just completed
drawing up a specification for a training and
development programme to address the gaps
Research Strand
• Further work to provide more evidence of
role of library staff in supporting others to
use digital resources
• Report published of case studies and
outcomes for people supported in libraries
Advocacy - Update
Presentations/discussions at all regional SCL meetings
Included in briefing to Culture Minister
Shared with partners: ACE, GDS, OCLC, TRA
National press releases
Information sent to CILIP for inclusion in publications
Shared with CILIP Information Literacy group and
presented at a CILIP seminar
• Links made to Enquire development and online
reference group
• Links made to Health Information Project and TRA
Next Steps
• Development / commissioning of the national
development programme
• Individual authorities to use their own survey
results to develop core information skills of their
• Further work on the technical infrastructure
• Link to other information initiatives
• Assisted digital aside, libraries need to be
prepared to respond to the likely growing need
for help using digital information and services

Public Library Information Offer