This question formed the basis of the discussion in the library subgroup at the IV non-conference organised in cooperation with EPALE Eesti and ETKA Andras on May 15.
The discussion started vigorously and the participants passionately spoke about their experience in adult counselling. Libraries have smoothly become centres, where adults can develop their digital skills and librarians have voluntarily taken the role of the extension of the state to help people to manage successfully with the e-state. In recent years counselling in the area of the use of smart devices has been added because libraries are trustworthy institutions and people come to seek for help namely in libraries, besides in the countryside libraries are the last public and free-of-charge institutions left. A good example to prove the increased importance of the libraries in counselling people is the fact that the number of people participating in individual training in public libraries in 2017 had risen by a quarter in comparison with the year 2016. The demand for such adult training exits and is significant!
Within the discussion it was stated that the state should contribute more to the technical devices of libraries because now it depends on the size of the local municipality’s purse and often also on the relationship between the library and the local municipality. Katrin Niklus – the representative of the librarians in Rapla County finds that libraries should stand out more and speak louder about their activities.
Mariya Tyutina – the alumna of Andragogy stressed the importance of libraries as a learning environment as she had spent most of her time during her studies in libraries. Mariya also pointed out that libraries should also take on the role of training, should not remain alone in this and request support from both - the state and the local municipality. Libraries should be ahead of the time, not lagging back. In addition Mariya thought that libraries could be educational not cultural establishments because they support the learning environment in one or another way.
We talked about the particularities of adult education in libraries and found that the main particularity is the fact that the training is free of charge, sustainable and individually directed and that kind of learning suits best the senior citizens as it is carried out in corresponding tempo and according to the required theme. Unfortunately, libraries do counselling free of charge as extra work besides their main assignments and only few libraries have people engaged only in counselling.
During the discussion important problems in adult education in libraries were brought out as follows:
- inadequate IT and androgigical skills among librarians;
- inadequate state support;
- outdated equipment, which cannot be used for counselling people;
- inadequate information about activities carried out in libraries, information about training does not reach the people in need;
- lack of time and shortage of competent people who could carry out trainings;
- librarians are not motivated to be also counsellors because the salaries in general are not motivating and librarians often have several additional obligations (especially in smaller libraries);
- limited cooperation and spreading of information in the community of libraries and on a larger scale.
Also some solutions for the development of adult education in libraries were pointed out during the discussion:
- IT curriculum should include also andragogy as a subject so that young people who come to work in libraries have also knowledge of andragogy;
- involvement of volunteers from among readers, but for that volunteers have to be competent and interested in counselling;
- more training sessions for librarians to increase digital competence;
- the community of libraries should influence the Ministry of Culture more in order to get more support for modernising technical devices;
- involvement of local authorities;
- cooperation in making libraries more visible, common environment for libraries all over Estonia, in which experience can be promoted and information about the activities in other libraries can be obtained.
This year adult education in libraries has efficiently been supported and focus on libraries has been successfully highlighted by the Smart Academy Project promoted by SA Vaata Maailma (http://www.nutiakadeemia.ee/(link is external)) in which several libraries all over Estonia have taken part in. The discussion group established that it is a national campaign concerning the entire state, reflected in the media, thus making libraries much more visible.
Kaie Holm – the Director of Tallinn Central Library, who took part in the discussion group as an expert, summaries the discussion as follows: “It is probably not only the concern of the community of librarians that we talk about the development of the area and bottlenecks within our community and among ourselves. The unconference format of EPALE brought together at the discussion table also specialists of other areas in addition to librarians, who added their viewpoints and experience in the discussion and hopefully spread the information obtained in the discussions in their communities. There should be more such opportunities.”
Themes of the discussions in sub-groups were delivered to the web-based discussion by Anna Aleksejeva, who stated in conclusion that the discussion about libraries as establishments providing adult education was very interesting and informative and the librarians should spread information about such interesting activities more actively, and also the problems in their everyday work should be introduced to a wider audience.
Members of the discussion group reached a unanimous conclusion that despite several obstacles libraries have a significant role in adult education because they teach people how to communicate with the e-state and provide senior citizens with free individual training.
As the follow up of the discussions at the unconference, I discovered that the lecturer of Tartu University Krista Lepik has recently come to the idea to create a common environment for memory establishments to spread information and for that has started a Facebook group ARM to spread information of interesting events taking place in archives, libraries and museums. It might be the place where we could share our experience. Let us then be active and make our work more visible!
Merle Koik, email@example.com (link sends e-mail), Development Manager of Võru County Central Library, educator and ambassador of EPALE. She has graduated from the Economics Department of Tartu University majoring in commercial economics and has improved her knowledge at many different trainings.