As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact our lives across Europe, we are all increasingly reliant on digital technology for everything from staying connected with friends to banking online. The focus of the Digital Travellers project on reducing the digital exclusion of vulnerable groups has therefore arguably never been so important. But we too have had to adapt the project to respond to the pandemic.

A blended approach to training sessions

Librarian training sessions are now being delivered online as webinars and online training sessions in each partner country. Our partner BSF Belgium has also created a series of self-training modules for librarians to follow which complements this. Self-training topics include an introduction to the Digital Travellers database, where librarians can access a wealth of resources to run digital workshops with vulnerable groups. BSF France has overseen the creation of this database (which will be available in English, Dutch, Finnish, French, and Polish), and all resources are mapped to the DigComp 2.1 following a large-scale mapping exercise led by our partner Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB).

The training sessions with vulnerable groups have also had to be rethought. Originally planned to be in person workshops, sessions will now take place online, offline, or in a combination of the two, depending on the situation in each country. The feedback gathered from both librarian training sessions and workshops with vulnerable groups will then continue to inform our project results, which will be shared with stakeholders according to our dissemination plan, led by Public Libraries 2030 (PL2030).

New demands on librarians

Online training exerts new demands on librarians, as they must increasingly draw upon their own digital skills. We are therefore currently expanding our training offerings to provide them with further support, tailored to the specific needs in each partner country,

In Poland, our partner Fundacja Rozwoju Spoleczenstwa Informacyjnego (FRSI) is offering librarians additional technical training in online communication tools. So far, 12 librarians have attended these workshops, and specific training sessions focussing on facilitating online workshops with vulnerable groups are also planned. It’s hoped that this additional support will help librarians feel more comfortable facilitating online sessions.

Sharing best practice between librarians is also an important aspect of the Digital Travellers project, and it is something that librarians themselves are eager to expand on. During the first Belgium librarian training sessions led by BSF Belgium, librarians explained the challenges that they were facing (such as reaching out to their -potential- end-users) and started exchanging what they had already tried to overcome this. Going forward, we will be offering librarians from all partner countries the chance to ‘meet’ virtually in a series of informal online sessions, led and moderated by our partner, the Finnish Library Association (FLA). Librarians will be able to network and share their experiences and best practice in these relaxed online meet ups, creating links across Europe in the Digital Travellers community.

The ultimate objective of the Digital Travellers project is to improve digital skills for the greatest possible number of people. By adapting our project to respond to the new needs identified in the pandemic, we aim to make an even greater contribution to the fight against digital exclusion in Europe. We look forward to continuing our journey in 2021!