As we have already told you in our last blog entry, we are currently working on a new concept for Dornbirn City Library. One pillar of this concept, which we have already been building up in the last few years, is an intense cooperation between the library staff and the patrons. We believe that learning with and from each other is essential for extending and strengthening the existing knowledge in the community. Exchanging skills and competencies in the library helps people in two ways: they acquire knowledge and connect with the community.
Our core assumption is that learning is made easier when there is a relationship between the learner and the teacher. Humans are cooperative and learning together within a safe environment satisfies their need for being part of a group. A safe environment is one where the learner is allowed to make mistakes, where he is being acknowledged as an independent individual with strengths, weaknesses, preferences and needs. This is an ideal base for exploratory learning. We are trying to offer our patrons that safe space within the library.
What we have already done and learned
In the last few years, Dornbirn City Library has already offered the following programs which are based on cooperation between patrons and librarians. Apart from the daily interactions with our customers that give us information, experience, patience and intercultural competencies, these programs were especially useful in teaching us skills. Regular programs are our creative writing classes and literature circles. These programs show us a variety of new ways to use and connect with speech and literature. Our patrons tell us through their writing about topics we previously knew little about while giving us a glimpse about their take on the world. Nonrecurring events were an oral storytelling workshop, a poetry slam, a cellphone workshop, a literary reading by blind persons and a cryptoparty. Besides the poetry slam and the cryptoparty, all of the events were held and/or organized by our patrons. The cryptoparty was held in cooperation with a local computer club. Their vast knowledge gave the patrons, but also us librarians, the opportunity to learn more about cybersecurity and protecting our own data. The poetry slam, which was held for young adults, allowed us to see different ways of playing with words. Through the texts we were able to get a taste on the young adults views on their daily lives and realities as well. Another event that taught us about different realities was the reading by blind persons. They not only read to us and our patrons, but they also showed us the obstacles they face in daily life by blindfolding us and guiding us through the city center.
What we will do and learn in the future
As we are currently lacking a designated space for events, we are unfortunately limited in the amount of programs and events we offer. We are very much looking forward to our new building, so that we can organize events during the opening hours as well. We are planning on giving our patrons a designated space where they hold events for each other with minimal involvement from the librarians. Possible courses and programs could be cooking classes, language courses as well as workshops in the visual and performing arts. We appreciate the new opportunities for learning that these events will give us. Currently, we are thinking about expanding our already broad program with the following offers from the library staff: courses on cybersecurity, digital cooperation, programming and using and organizing Open Educational Resources in order to design individual learning paths. Another possibility that we are thinking about is showing our patrons how to make learning and/or entertainment objects, e.g. videos, podcasts, animated presentations etc. themselves. We will also give workshops on academic research and writing.
In addition, we will install a makerspace that will serve as an open and safe space for patrons where they can experiment and learn from each other.
As you can see, the programs of Dornbirn City Library are varied and they will become even more so. We strongly believe that working with instead of for our customers fosters a sense of community and of sharing knowledge. This not only helps the individual customers, but the region as a whole. Only well-informed, confident people can be active citizens that help our city to develop and grow. What have you learned from and with your patrons?