Public Library Instruction for Adult Learners

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An overview of issues and trends within public library systems related to adult learning initiatives.

An overview of issues and trends within public library systems related to adult learning initiatives.

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  • 1. Public Library Instruction for Adult Learners Megan Summers SLIS J741 Fall 2013
  • 2. Part 1: What is Public Library Instruction?
  • 3. Instruction in public libraries for adults is fostered by both indirect and direct service on the part of employees or volunteers: - Direct service involves working with learners face-to-face: - Tutoring. - Answering research questions. - Teaching a technology class. - Indirect service involves working behind the scenes and facilitating: - Maintaining databases with learner information. - Purchasing materials for classes. - Marketing programming events for learners.
  • 4. Those who participate in instructional services for adults in public libraries do so through various means, including: - General programming events. - Literacy courses. - GED testing services. - Technology learning. - Outreach. - One-on-one research sessions.
  • 5. Part 2: Who are Public Library Instructors?
  • 6. Instructors in public libraries represent a diverse group of people: - Full-time employees. - Part-time employees. - Library assistants. - Librarians with MLIS degrees. - Paraprofessionals. - Volunteers. Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • 7. According to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (2013), in the 2010 fiscal year, public library workforce statistics read as follows: -139,370 full-time staff members. - 46,849 librarians. All of these employees participate in instructional services in some capacity in the 8,951 public libraries throughout the country. Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2013, January). Public libraries in the United States: Fiscal year 2009. Retrieved from http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/AssetManager/PLS2010.pdf
  • 8. Part 3: How do Public Libraries Provide Instruction for Adults?
  • 9. I. General Programming
  • 10. Programming events have become a staple for public libraries over the decades, and programming events designed to engage adult learners can help in the instructional process.
  • 11. What kinds of programming events are available for adult learners in libraries? 1. Reading programs 2. Film programs 3. Lectures on various topics 4. Gaming programs 5. Arts and Crafts programs 6. Music programs
  • 12. An example of a programming event and how to promote it:
  • 13. What are some public libraries doing in order to facilitate programming for adult learners?
  • 14. “The Hussey Mayfield Memorial Public Library held a recent miniwriters conference in collaboration with the Midwest Writers Association. Marilyn Martin publicized the conference in 57 different zip codes, using e-mail blasts, listservs, newsletters, press releases, and other devices and drew a crowd of 162 attendees, the largest and most successful mini conference that Midwest Writers Association ever experienced” (p. 9). Source: Hill, R. (2008). Adult cultural programming in small town libraries. Indiana Libraries, 27(2), 7-9. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 15. “The Central Arkansas Library System ran programming for adults teaching people about playing World of Warcraft. This may seem an unusual game to be part of a library education program. However, the aim of this education program was social inclusion, and it was thought that playing a game like World of Warcraft may be one way to assist in this locally. Library staff were pleased with the outcomes” (p. 187). Source: Forsyth, E. (2012). Learning through play: Games and crowdsourcing for adult education. Aplis, 25(4), 166-173. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 16. II. Literacy Courses
  • 17. A segment of every public library system’s adult population will struggle with basic literacy: reading, writing, and calculation. Literacy initiatives in public libraries support a major goal of such library systems: providing users with equal access to resources. According to Nassimbeni and Tandwa (2008), literacy helps adults: - acquire job skills. - develop the ability to understand healthy life styles. - participate in democracy. Source: Nassimbeni, M. & Tandwa, N. (2008). Adult education in two public libraries in Cape Town: A case study. South African Journal of Libraries & Information Science, 74(1), 83-92. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 18. What are some basic goals instructional librarians should create for public library literacy courses and programs? 1. Self-reliance. 2. Ability to adapt to technological changes. 3. Being able to analyze materials critically. 4. Obtaining common sense, day-to-day skills. 5. Personal development. Source: Nassimbeni, M. & Tandwa, N. (2008). Adult education in two public libraries in Cape Town: A case study. South African Journal of Libraries & Information Science, 74(1), 83-92. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 19. Literacy courses are designed for group and one-on-one interactions. Some public library systems create literacy instruction departments, while others integrate literacy instruction into day-to-day interactions with adult library users. Public library systems can also support literacy initiatives by incorporating basic reading and writing materials into their collections, allowing outside organizations to use their spaces for literacy classes, and promoting the value of literacy. Source: Nassimbeni, M. & Tandwa, N. (2008). Adult education in two public libraries in Cape Town: A case study. South African Journal of Libraries & Information Science, 74(1), 83-92. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 20. Nanci Milone Hill, the Director of M.G. Parker Memorial Library in Dracut, MA, suggests that public libraries do the follow to support literacy: - Understand their communities. - Get help from educators. - Think outside the box with collection development and circulation. - If needed, select engaging volunteers for classes. - Create a clear vision of the bigger picture in terms of education. Source: Hill, N. (2013). Adult literacy approaches in public libraries. Public Libraries, 52(1), 18-22. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 21. What are some public libraries doing to address literacy concerns in their communities?
  • 22. Since 1985, the Brooklyn [NY] Public Library system has maintained five adult learning centers. The library’s literacy program connects adult learning with volunteers for one-on-one tutoring. While the learning centers are separate spaces from the libraries in Brooklyn and the librarians do not instruct adult learners, they facilitate the literacy programs in these ways: 1. They develop and keep up with the book collections in each center. 2. They communicate with literacy staff regularly and refer the public to them. 3. They instruct literacy staff about library procedures. Source: Malus, S. (1987). The logical place to attain literacy. Library Journal, 112(12), 38. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 23. Amy Prevedel (2013), the coordinator of the Second Start program at the Oakland Public Library in California has this to say about her program: “Second Start was one of the original library-based literacy programs in California. In 1983, State Librarian Gary Strong had the vision to bring adult literacy programs to libraries in California in order to serve people who were not served anywhere else in the community and to expand access to libraries and their many resources.” This program in Oakland excels, like the one in Brooklyn, through the help of volunteer tutors. Source: Prevedel, A. (2013). Second start at Oakland Public Library. Public Libraries, 52(1), 46-51. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 24. Listen to Gary Strong discuss the role for adult literacy in public libraries:
  • 25. III. GED Testing Services
  • 26. Sometimes incorporated into literacy programs or sometimes established alongside them, testing services in public libraries help adults achieve enough confidence, through skill development, to pass standardized tests, most commonly the GED. Having up-to-date testing materials in circulation and knowledge of other local GED preparation services in the the area will also help adult learners achieve their goals of going to college or advancing in their careers.
  • 27. Thoughts from a Librarian In a reflective essay about learning to write effective essays for the GED, librarian Cindy Strodel McCall raises important questions about the value of GED testing services in public libraries: “But when the exam is over, what do our students bring forward in their lives? A new confidence and a newfound ability to look for the resources they need to reach their goals, along with the satisfaction of having accomplished an important educational milestone.” Source: Strodel McCall, C. (2013). Personal observations, experience, and knowledge. Public Libraries, 52(4), 38-40. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 28. A Helpful Test Tool for Librarians: Learning Express Library Learning Express Library is an online practice test service many library systems subscribe to. It offers practice tests and test preparation materials for many standardized tests, including the GED. When a library’s physical collection is lacking, this is an important resource to point library users toward for help.
  • 29. IV. Technology Learning
  • 30. The importance of digital literacy for adult library users goes without saying in an age where many services are only available online. It is common for adults who utilize public libraries frequently do: - Not have internet access or a computer at home. - Feel hurried to complete a job application or a school assignment with little knowledge of how to use a computer effectively. - Not have knowledge of how to keep their information secure and private on websites. Libraries should promote technology learning in order to shorten the digital divide in their communities.
  • 31. What exactly is this “digital divide”?
  • 32. Statistics from the ALA’s annual State of America’s Libraries report from 2013 show how primary technology services have become alongside more traditional services like book borrowing: “Among Americans 16 years and older, 80% say borrowing books is very important service libraries provide, and 80% say reference librarians fall into the same very important category. Free access to computers and the internet finished in a virtual tie, at 77%” (p. 12). Source: American Library Association. (2013). The state of America’s libraries report 2013. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/sites/ala.org.news/files/content/2013-State-ofAmericas-LibrariesReport.pdf
  • 33. Providing training to adult library populations when it comes to technology services happens in different ways: 1. By answering questions directly while a user is on a public computer. 2. By answering questions online or over the phone related to computer or technology issues. 3. By providing public computer classes on site at varying skill levels. 4. By providing technology courses online.
  • 34. Some libraries realize that training staff on technology services must occur before the public can receive proper instruction on the subject, as the Deschutes Public Library in Oregon. Its staff training program, Embracing Technology, served to make staff curious about online technologies and to contribute to learning within the larger community. The training program existed solely online and was tweaked to suit the needs of different staff members, i.e. part-time versus full-time. Source: Sjoblom, L. (2008). Embracing technology: The Deschutes Public Library's Learning 2.0 Program. (cover story). OLA Quarterly, 14(2), 2-6. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 35. V. Community Outreach
  • 36. Partnerships Library programs will be unsuccessful without community support, and the best way for librarians to gain support for their programs is by partnering with other community organizations. As Stein (2009) writes, “Partners can provide a direct audience; a network of partners can help broaden the audience base as well as provide strategies for how best to reach various segments of the targeted audience. They expand library programming beyond the four walls of the library building…” (p. 13). Source: Stein, M. (2009). Working together with community groups to provide big-time programming for adults. Louisiana Libraries, 72(1), 13-19. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
  • 37. Marketing It is equally true that library programs will be unsuccessful if they are not promoted in ways that reach one’s targeted audience. For adult literacy programs, consider: 1. Having ample materials inside the library for users who many benefit from learning services. 2. Put fliers up in community centers, homeless shelters, community colleges, and other places disenfranchised segments of populations may spend time. 3. Make sure to have materials for non-native speakers. 4. Utilize local government organizations to get the word out about your program.
  • 38. FIN