Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gateways to learning

Today at the LILAC conference (pic. of poster gallery on the right - with trademark LILAC balloons) I attended a session on the Gateways to learning project. This is part-funded by the European Social Fund, and involves 5 public libraries and 3 academic libraries in South East Wales. They aim to widen participation in learning through informal learning, which can be a bridge to formal learning. They target any one 16+ years old who is economically inactive e.g. unemployed. There had been a lote of redundancies in that part of Wales (e.g. from the Corus steel plant) and following on from this one of the things that was investigated by th eWelsh Executive was reasons for not participating in learning. This included reasons like lack of confidence and feeling intimidated by formal educational establishments, so libraries' role came to the fore in proposals.

There are people employed by the project who work one-to-one with learners (there have been 1500 of these information literacy taster sessions) and encourage the learners to work through little workbooks that enable them to compile evidence of acheivement in finding and using information to meet a real information need. If the learner completes it all successfully, they can then gain an Open College Network qualification. About 300 people have gone on to do this, sometimes going for the next level of qualification too, and/or investigating more formal learning options. Some of these people have previously had no educational qualifications.

One issue is that the project ends later this year, so that regular library staff are having to plan how they will continue this work, which is obviously meeting a need. I was very interested to hear about this project, as I get asked about public/academic library cooperation (the academic libraries focus on access students in particular, I was told, by the way). Iheard about it (and might have blogged too) when it started up, but hadn't followed its progress. The website is at

No comments: