Public libraries should prepare to help people get to grips with the digital revolution, the Government declared this week.
In its review of public library policy for England, the Department of National Heritage says advances in information technology may mean that the library of the future is very different from the traditional repository of books.
A working group set up by the library and information commission will report to the heritage minister by July on how public libraries in England should respond to the challenge.
The Government has decided that once the millennium celebrations are over, some of the Pounds 300 million at the disposal of the Millennium Commission will be directed towards the development of the library information technology network.
The report says that the British Library has a key role to play in spreading information technology through the public library system. The Library's chief executive, Brian Lang, said: "The report acknowledges the key contribution which the British Library will make to public libraries. We have already digitised some of our great treasures.
"The education, cultural and economic potential of making the national library's collection available through the public library network is enormous."