Those of us immersed in training-teaching-learning—particularly in libraries—should consider ourselves very lucky. It’s not as if something entirely new is happening in terms of libraries serving as centers of learning; we’re probably all familiar with the idea that libraries are the people’s university. We do, on the other hand, see more and more of our colleagues embracing and reveling in the roles we can play in lifelong learning. During our time together today, we’ll look at what others are doing, compare notes, and see what we can do to expand our own reach as collaborators in lifelong learning with the communities we serve.
Sometimes we just need to shift things a bit to see the obvious. For example, I again—recently—started off a learning session (this one sponsored by the American Library Association Learning Round Table) by asking participants to reset the room in a way they believed would be conducive to effective learning. Using this technique that I learned from writer/consultant Peter Block several years ago, I wasn’t at all surprised to see the group, within just a few minutes, move rows of chairs to the side, drag tables into the middle of the room…
…and eventually create a large oval of chairs around those tables so everyone could see and hear everyone else. In essence, they produced an example of something we’re seeing more and more often: in great learning spaces, there is no front of the room, and everyone is a trainer-teacher-learner. I think it’s just as easy and obvious to embrace the idea that with a bit of rethinking, we can create and build upon models of learning that meet library staff members’ and library users’ lifelong learning needs. [For more on the act of rearranging the room to facilitate effective learning, please see: “Addressing the Couch in the Middle of the Room” http://buildingcreativebridges.wordpress.com/?s=couch+in+the+middle+of+the+room]
Let’s start with a wonderful observation about lifelong learning…
From Page 3 of the American Library Association Strategic Plan (2011-2015)… http://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/missionhistory/plan/strategic%20plan%202015%20documents/strategic_plan_2.pdfan Library Association Strategic Plan (2011-2015)…
Now let’s dive into a vision of what that means to contemporary students…
…and the rest of us! It’s not just learners in academic settings that are seeing their worksites and work requirements evolve. If we think about the changes we’ve seen in library work over the past decade or two, we have a hint of what might be ahead of us. If we think of ourselves as working in one important part of a massive learning landscape that includes libraries, museums, K-12, community colleges, four-year colleges, universities, trade schools, staff training programs, and myriad online opportunities including massive open online courses, we have a clearer picture of what is available to us. And if we extend that thought to our community partners who are seeing continual change in what they face, we’re already equipped with a response to the question at the top of this slide.
From our colleagues at IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions): “Lifelong learning or learning from cradle to grave does not have the same connotation as recurrent education within the educational system. Lifelong learning reflects a more holistic view on education and recognises learning in and from many different environments.” --p. 2 “In a society of lifelong learning public libraries will be nodes connecting the local learning setting – whether it is of a formal or informal kind – with the global resources of information and knowledge, public libraries can therefore play a role of fundamental importance in the development of future systems of lifelong learning.” p. 3 [Document adopted by the IFLA Section for Public Libraries, Mid Term Meeting in Ljusdal, Sweden, March 2004: http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s8/proj/Lifelong-LearningReport.pdf]
From our colleagues at IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions): “The European Commission’s memorandum on lifelong learning was a new initiative, although ideas about the related concept – “recurrent training” – can be traced back to political discussions during the 1960s.” --p. 3 “The purpose of the Memorandum, was made official in October 2000 and followed up under the Swedish EU presidency, was to launch a European-wide debate on a comprehensive strategy for implementing lifelong learning at individual and institutional levels…. At the heart of the Memorandum are six key messages. New basic skills for all, with the objective to guarantee universal and continuing access to learning for gaining and renewing the skills needed for sustained participation in the knowledge society. Five new basic skills were specifically mentioned at Lisbon – IT skills, foreign languages, technological culture, entrepreneurship and social skills. Raising levels of investment in Human Resources.” p. 4 [Document adopted by the IFLA Section for Public Libraries, Mid Term Meeting in Ljusdal, Sweden, March 2004: http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s8/proj/Lifelong-LearningReport.pdf]
Let’s ground ourselves a bit more by looking at what we and those we are serving face in terms of lifelong learning: Please type your responses to this question into the chat window, and feel free to jot down your ideas and any others you like from the chat window so you can continue creating a plan of action that you can use as soon as this session is over.
A second question…
As I mentioned earlier, we’re not really on radically-new ground here. Libraries have a long tradition of serving as places that support lifelong learning; a point worth acknowledging is that we haven’t always branded ourselves in that way. But that’s changing, as we’ll see from a few examples… Carlsbad, California: “The Carlsbad City Library Learning Center is a warm, comfortable community gathering place where lifelong learning is supported for all ages. The Learning Center’s friendly, bilingual (English/Spanish) staff is here to help with the community’s information, literacy and learning needs.”
Oak Harbor, Washington
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island
Terre Haute, Indiana
Again, building upon something we’ve discussed in earlier PCI Webinar sessions: Taking the library communities of learning exploration one step further, let’s think about what we hear from some of our users. A few of us were pleasantly surprised, a few years ago, to hear a university student talk about how he loved libraries because of how they facilitated his learning process and, at the same time, provided a place where he knew he would run into people he knew. We quickly realized he was building on Ray Oldenburg’s idea of Third Places in our lives—those social gathering places away from home and work where we go to run into people we know. Without realizing what he was proposing and documenting, that student helped us see that libraries already function as a new sort of “Fourth Place”—the social gathering place that combines socializing with learning. If we can make more people aware of that role we are already playing, and build upon our successes in that social-learning-center area, we’ve just come up with yet another bit of proof that libraries are far from any danger of disappearing. And this doesn’t have to be a big-library offering; the smallest library with even the smallest amount of space for library users to gather can and already does play this important role, as I see as I travel around the country and learn from colleagues.
In an earlier PCI Webinars session, we discussed a variety of ways that we’re already engaged in supporting lifelong learning… Onsite workshop and other presentations Personal learning networks Learning organizations such as the ALA Learning Round Table Online chats, via Twitter, with colleagues MOOCs (massive open online courses, including the Educational Technology & Media MOOC that was active in spring 2013 and David Lankes’s “New Librarianship Master Class that is currently being offered through Syracuse University for the second time. It’s worth noting that the New York Public Library recently announced plans to become part of that particular MOOC learning landscape by encouraging learners engaged in MOOCs to have meetings within the library to collaborate on their classwork—a nice extension of what we’ve been seeing in library information commons and makerspaces.
Published by the Institute of Museum and Library Studies, June 2009: “One of the most critical elements in building on lifelong learning and fostering a nation of learners is the success or failure of engaging broad swaths of our young people with our institutions in simple but meaningful ways.” --Mark A. Wright, Director of Partnerships, National Children’s Museum From page 15 of the report
So, let’s consider, for a moment, a few ways these partnerships can continue developing in ways that provide lifelong learning opportunities: Connections with our local and regional museums so that visitors to museum exhibitions are reminded that more information about the artists and the exhibits are available in our collections? Joint programming where some of our subject-matter experts participate in museum presentations connected to specific exhibitions? Inviting local or visiting artists whose work is on display to be involved in presentations through our libraries? Any success stories you can share with colleagues via the chat window?
From “How museums, libraries, and archives contribute to lifelong learning,” published in 2009 by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (England and Wales): Museums, libraries and archives could open up their spaces and resources in new ways to create more opportunities 2. The museum, library and archive network could act as the backbone of a joined-up lifelong learning sector 3. Ensure museums, libraries and archives are truly universal by ﬁlling gaps in audiences and reaching out further
4. Develop the core role of public libraries as local information hubs in their communities – including the idea of creating living libraries where people are part of the collections, as David Lankes has suggested in The Atlas of New Librarianship.
Here’s one of many possible examples of how it works, from McGill University, in Montreal: “The people who act as living books prepare a story about themselves – sometimes a lifelong journey or maybe just an important period in their life. They can come from all walks of life and the story they tell is of their choosing. With the help of volunteer ‘librarians’ the readers select a title, then meet with their ‘book’ to listen to and discuss the story. “‘The Living Library is a unique way for individuals in a very diverse community to get to know each other,’ says Shanahan. ‘It fosters a positive mental outlook among participants and encourages social interaction and cooperation.’” This is lifelong learning at its best—engaging, in the moment, collaborative, and full of possibilities. Given all the resources we have at our disposal, we could easily see ourselves setting up a live event like this onsite, taping it and making it available through our onsite and online archives, or even taking the idea a bit further through social media tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to bring the “human books” into our library from other sites. Again, let’s learn from each other: anyone have examples of similar experiments?
Another charming example of what we’re seeing comes from Lisa Bunker, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Services Librarian at Pima County Public Library. Listening to her at the ALA Midwinter gathering in Philadelphia earlier this year, I heard her talk about the library’s Catalyst Café. As I wrote at the time: “Even a glance at a list of innovation-catalyst programs and discussions held at the Café makes us want to fly, drive, or walk to that magnificent library-as-innovation-catalyst space and join the party: game-storming, crowd-funding, maker/hacker spaces, Pinterest strategies, product launches, social entrepreneurship, building buzz, visual storytelling, and social media policies.” She has people sitting in a circle to break down hierarchy; she encourages interaction; and she is helping provide a space that meets lifelong learning needs for a wonderfully diverse group of library users in her community. We don’t have to go as far as she has gone in creating and filling that Catalyst Café space, but there’s no reason why we can’t be creating our own versions of that sort of lifelong learning space to better serve our communities’ needs. For more background: “Showing Up,” posted on the American Libraries blog on January 28, 2014, at: http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blog/showing.
Let’s stop again and respond to the first of two new questions, and remember that jotting down appealing ideas provides you with the framework for putting to work what you’re gaining from this webinar…
A second question that leads us from observation to action…
Let’s do a quick visual review of the basics that we have covered: We started off with the idea that if we rethink what’s already familiar, we’ll find we’re well on our way to playing significant roles in lifelong learning for our staff as well as for library users.
We recalled that the current ALA Strategic Plan speaks strongly and supportively of the role libraries (and librarians) play in fostering lifelong learning.
We had a visceral reminder that lifelong learning is not a luxury—it’s an essential tool for survival.
We saw that we and our colleagues increasingly are embracing the use of language that overtly promote the roles we play in lifelong learning.
And we had many reminders of how our colleagues are stepping up to the plate in terms of fostering lifelong learning environments that serve as catalysts within their communities.
A few resources worth exploring…
Paul Signorelli &
July 17, 2014
Libraries as Partners in Lifelong Learning:
Cultivating OurLearning Landscape
A Lifelong Learning Framework
The Need forLifelong Learning
Please name at least one thing you have had to learn in yourworkplace
because of the changing nature of the workyou do.
The Need forLifelong Learning
Please name at least one thing you have had to learn in your workplace
because of the changing nature of the work you do.
Please name one thing that you have been helping others
(outside of libraries) learn to do so they remain competitive in
Serving as Lifelong Learning Catalysts
What can you take fromtoday’s session to betterserve members of
yourlifelong learning community onsite and online?
Serving as Lifelong Learning Catalysts
What can you take from today’s session to better serve members of
your lifelong learning community onsite and online?
What will you do in the next weekto begin implementing one lifelong
learning effort that supports yourstaff and/oryourcommunity?
Paul Signorelli & Associates
1032 Irving St., #514
San Francisco, CA 94122
Credits & Acknowledgments
(Images taken from flickr.com unless otherwise noted):
Fisher Fine Arts Library (University of Pennsylvania): Photo by Paul Signorelli (January 2014)
Resetting the Room: Photo by Paul Signorelli (ALA Annual Conference/June 2014)
From Denise Kreb’s photostreamat http://tinyurl.com/nlwpmh6
This Year I Will Learn to Bake: From Lester Public Library’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/l6h7aym
ACU Library: From ACU Library’s photostream at http://tinyurl.com/mxzqm3p