Warning as county libraries fail to provide enough Wi-fi
More libraries in Kent are failing to provide wireless internet access than anywhere else in the country.
According to a government survey, 65 of the county’s 99 libraries do not offer Wi-fi.
It follows a warning from ministers that the lack of Wi-fi in libraries could fuel their alarming decline.
Those missing out include Bockhanger in Kennington, Charing, Stanhope in Ashford, Wye, Lydd, Lyminge and New Romney.
Nationwide, more than 700 public libraries do not have wireless access, with it being far more widespread in big cities while rural areas miss out.
After Kent, the next worst-hit areas are Cumbria with 46 libraries, Durham with 33, Lincolnshire with 31 and Northumberland with 30.
In contrast, libraries in 26 of London’s 32 boroughs all have Wi-fi.
And Bradford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Stoke all boast 100 per cent coverage in their libraries.
The survey, by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), follows a warning to ministers that public libraries are doomed unless they offer Wi-fi.
That was the stark conclusion, last December, of the Independent Library Report for England, which followed at least 324 closures since 2011.
The report, written by the author William Sieghart, called for libraries to be more like coffee shops in order to attract visitors with higher expectations, offering sofas and hot drinks as well as Wi-fi.
Mr Sieghart described the absence of Wi-fi as “astonishing”, saying: “We’re at a critical moment for the libraries and if we’re not careful we could lose so many.”
The DCMS carried out the survey as the Arts Council last month announced £7.1 million with the aim of delivering Wi-fi in all libraries that lack it, by March next year.
Grants will be given to libraries with no wireless internet connection at all and to those where current connections fall “below the recommended technical specification”.
But funding will pay only for initial installation or upgrade, with all ongoing costs, monthly fees and renewals, to be met by local authorities, or partners.
Libraries in Kent are lagging behind in offering Wi-fi