What is the project all about?
Adult education organizations are looking for ways to better reach their customers and make their services more easily accessible to learners. Libraries are finding new roles in teaching, training and providing services to a public that reads fewer books. Crossing the boundaries and increasing cooperation among libraries and adult education organizations to enhance borderless guidance seems a natural direction to take.
The Erasmus+ KA2 partnership Hand in Hand consists of five European lifelong learning organizations (libraries and adult education centres) who want to exchange practices among each other and learn to offer better and more easily accessible services to customers. The idea is to study and analyse the steps libraries and adult education organizations can take to become multi-purpose learning centres. An important approach is to find ways to complement each other’s expertise in order to create synergies in services to the public.
Thinking outside the box
The partners gathered together for a teaching and learning activity in Finland in May 2018. In order to get as many ideas for developing our services as possible, we made study visits and got to hear presentations from libraries and adult education centres experienced in thinking outside the box in planning and providing their services.
The study visits to Sello library in Espoo as well as to Maunula House community centre and Oodi (the new central library that celebrates the centenary of Finland) in Helsinki provided us with several important points of view. A talk given to us from the Poleeni cultural centre in the small town of Pieksämäki further deepened our understanding of what we need to consider in order to expand our services:
- The library of the future will be an open, public space where people do not only get and share information and develop their skills but also come together to meet, work and create.
- Residents are no longer passive users of services but active planners and producers of activities who also benefit from self-service spaces and the possibility to use the premises independently.
- Openness, transparency, confidence and equality are key concepts. Local democracy grows from listening to our residents and asking for their input every step of the way from planning to implementation.
- Planning, organizing and providing a wide spectrum of activities requires cooperation of several actors such as libraries, youth centres, adult education centres and cultural services.
Understanding the learner
In order to understand what services our learners want and need, we conducted surveys among our customers and shared the results with each other. The results of the surveys are surprisingly well in line with what we learned during our study visits:
As far as the premises are concerned, our customers want both, some space for relaxing and “slow life” and spaces for various activities, workshops, do-it-yourself activities, working.
A recurring theme in our surveys and during the study visits was peer-to-peer learning – our customers mentioned the need of getting help with mobile devices and computers, starting reading circles and film clubs, and sharing information about various topics in informal ways.
Another important finding was the desire for intergenerational events, events for children and parents together, spaces where families can do things together.
Our to-do list
Gaining an understanding of our own customers/learners is crucial when planning services based on user needs. We need to improve the accessibility of lifelong learning services for adults. We must also explore ways for lifelong learning organizations and libraries to form boundary spanning partnerships and promoting the development of multi-purpose learning centres.
There is also a need to develop our pedagogical skills for working with groups of customers and learners. Here, adult education centres and libraries can help each other. Sharing collaborative learning and teaching techniques and pedagogical approaches for adult learners will help us enhance the pedagogical toolkit of our teachers, trainers and pedagogical staff as well as reflect on our current practice.
In the end, what is important to our customer is not who provides the service but that the service is available.
Coordinator of the project:
- Valkeakosken kaupunki (Valkeakoski public library and Valkeakoski lifelong learning centre), Finland
- Randers kommune (Randers public library), Denmark
- Fundacja "Aktywni XXI", Jelenia Gora, Poland
- Comune di Fano (Fano public library), Italy
- Training 2000, Italy