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Library News

By: Pat Whitfield, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: August 20, 2010

Sedona Public Library: Its Role in Lifelong Learning

A significant component of Sedona Public Library’s mission is to “enrich the lives of our residents and visitors”. While this commitment has many dimensions, serving as a center for lifelong learning is a prime element.

In an address to a public forum held in Phoenix in February 2005, Gloria Coles, director of the Lifelong Access Initiative of the Americans for Libraries Council, explained, “Local libraries in every community across the country (are) connecting people across ethnic lines. They are the gateway to lifelong learning.”

What, then, is lifelong learning? UNESCO has taken a world view of the concept and defines it as learning from the cradle to the grave that differs from that provided within an educational system. “Lifelong learning reflects a more holistic view of education and recognizes learning in and form many environments. … Lifelong learning dissolves boundaries … is a purposeful learning activity undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills, and competence.”

What is the role of libraries in lifelong learning? Again, UNESCO has aptly defined that role.

“In a society of lifelong learning public libraries will be nodes connecting the local learning setting … with the global resources of information and knowledge and play a role in the development of future systems of lifelong learning.” The development of information and communication technology, readily accessible at libraries,  has  laid the basis for the creation of information networks, giving the users of even small local public libraries access to worldwide sources of information. They offer guidance and training in ways to search and use this information and rate the quality of information sources. UNESCO sees the higher role of libraries “qualifying as important prerequisites for an informed democratic knowledge society.”

The concept of lifelong learning surpasses national borders in this age of geopolitical interconnection. An internationally connected world received attention from the European Commission on Education for the 21st Century in its 1996 report, Learning: the treasure within.The report established six goals for lifelong learning across the world: new basic skills for all, noting five new basic skills – IT skills, foreign languages, technological cultural, entrepreneurship, and social skills; innovation in teaching and learning; valuing learning, particularly non-formal and informal learning; rethinking guidance and counseling to ensure that everyone can easily access good quality information; and bringing learning closer to home. The perspective of this international report is to emphasize that a fundamental function for libraries is to be more than just service places, but to be active partners in the educational process.

In America, illiteracy has become a growing concern since it has both social and economic implications. Generally, literacy is considered as the ability to read, write, speak, and compute at a certain level. Those lacking functional literacy skills are at a disadvantage in coping at an adult level with such tasks as reading a newspaper or online news source, completing a job application and even reading directional signs while driving.

Over the years, many libraries have supported literacy education efforts by providing teaching resources, space for tutoring, and informational and referral services. Many libraries have developed programs for people whose primary language is not English and have been reached through programs that match their cultures and interests. Sedona Public Library, for example, has a Spanish program librarian and a section of materials written in Spanish. Programs are offered for children in both English and Spanish, to develop the skills of young readers.

Another contemporary role of libraries has been collaboration with other community entities to foster lifelong learning. Sometimes these shared relationships have been with schools or universities, with organizations dedicated to fostering literacy or enhancing economic development, or others with an equivalent interest in nurturing lifelong learning.

An example of such a relationship is that between the Sedona Public Library and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). From August 23 through 31, representatives from OLLI will be at SPL to share information about their classes and workshops for Fall 2010. OLLI’s mission is “to provide … a rich, continuing educational experience with opportunities for personal growth plus cultural and environmental exploration – just a love of learning.” This fall’s OLLI offerings range from classes in mythology through public speaking, from enhancing your knowledge of technology to stringing scarves, from poetry to puzzles, to name just a very few examples from its repertoire.

And what better place to enlighten the community about OLLI’s lifelong learning opportunities than at the Sedona Public Library? Yet another opportunity for SPL to “enrich the lives of our residents and visitors”.

Pat Whitfield
Pat Whitfield, author of this week's article,
is a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.