We, the City Library Dornbirn, are currently working on a new concept for our institution. This concept also includes a new building which will be better suited to our patrons´needs. Because we decided to lay our focus on lifelong learning, we feel fortunate to take part in „Library – I love it!“.
Libraries have always been spaces that preserve information and enable patrons to further educate themselves. In a society, where off-the-job training is increasingly required and expected, libraries have further positioned themselves as spaces for lifelong learning. This positioning has been achieved by providing patrons with online and offline access to high quality information and with the provision of work stations. Besides the increasing amounts of people who take part in distance studies that need their local library to give them access to information and high quality studying spaces, the knowledge-society requires curious, freethinking individuals who are passionate about learning. Therefore, the previous efforts are not enough anymore and the focus is shifting to not only support formal learners, but informal or non-formal learners as well.
In order to support formal, in-formal and non-formal learners of all socio-economic backgrounds and ages, the main goal should be to create a lively atmosphere that nurtures a culture of exploration and learning. This atmosphere can only be achieved by support through the local politics, the library space itself and – most importantly – by the mindset and the actions of the librarians.
In order to strengthen the libraries´ role in the community and to turn them into well-used learning spaces, an integration of the libraries into the local education system is an important first step. Local politicians need to see the library as a reliable partner in lifelong learning and communicate that position to the citizens, so that our institutions are not an afterthought anymore, but a natural and integral part of people´s learning path. To get the support of local politicians a lot of communication on behalf of the library is required, so that we are visible and our services are known.
Learning spaces should spark curiosity and creativity. To give learners with different learning styles the environment they need, it is vital to have loud zones and quiet zones so that individual learners as well as people working on group projects can learn simultaneously and without constraints . Because active learning is an important building block in modern education, the library building should also include spaces for active participation. Communicative zones allow patrons to mingle and talk to each other. This will strengthen the library´s role as a meeting place and community center which will in turn help to make the library into a natural part of the citizens´daily lives.
Role of the Librarians
In a library, where the focus lies on lifelong learning, librarians play a vital part in creating a culture that is conductive to learning. They should support the patrons´curiosity and creativity, encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and foster a vibrant atmosphere, where studying and learning is seen as one big adventure. During the learning process, the librarians should lead by example: they should be open to new fields and technologies and show citizens that learning is an integral and enriching part of life and that it´s okay to be a beginner. In addition, they should equip patrons with the tools they need in order to develop their skills and competences. Working closely together with other educational institutions could help the visibility of library services and show (potential) patrons that librarians are professional, competent and approachable and that they are willing and qualified to support them on their individual learning paths.
The City Library Dornbirn´s goal is to be a pulsating space in the middle of our community that connects our citizens to one another and that gives them the tools to develop their own strengths and interests. The changing focus from our collections to the atmosphere of our spaces and the extension of our services to support our patrons curiosity and creativity is as much a challenge, as a big opportunity. We are happy and feel fortunate, that we can get to know other European libraries and their approach to lifelong learning. We already have and will surely continue to participate from your knowledge and experiences. Libraries are in for a challenging future: by increasing our quality of cooperation through collecting and combining our know-how and practical experience, we ourselves, can best learn how to support our patrons in their quest for learning.