Why libraries get full marks when it comes to learning

“Thank you for opening the door to a new world – I have resisted becoming involved with computing but this was done in such an understandable way that I am greatly encouraged and now want to keep learning more”

“Excellent course and just right for a terrified beginner like me. Full marks to the libraries for doing something like this and to the staff and volunteers who made it so enjoyable”

“Great course! I am now regularly e-mailing my family in Australia, it’s wonderful”

Libraries have always been about learning. Safe, neutral, inclusive spaces with knowledgeable and adaptable staff provide the perfect opportunity for trying out new experiences. The comments above, from participants on our Learn IT computer course, prove that we’re getting it right.

As well as helping hundreds of people to get started with computers, another huge success story is the Six Book Challenge, where we invite less confident readers to read six books and record their reading in a diary. The idea of the challenge is to help people get into reading – in many cases for the first time – and it works!

“I loved all the stories. I want to do more reading. All the stories were very interesting. I liked ‘Begging letters’ and ‘The cardigan’.” James, Six Book Challenge participant

Most participants read books, but the scheme can be used to introduce people to text in lots of different formats such as magazines, newspapers, websites and even digital games.

Then there are our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Chatabout reading groups. In the words of Else, a Chatabout group member from Portugal:

‘before Chatabout, I hardly read any book in English, now I am happy to say that I am successfully reading English books and I am improving a lot my spelling and writing!’ James, Six Book Challenge participant

Fung, from Hong Kong, adds ‘From the group I can learn some colloquialism… some sentences have odd meaning that I cannot find in dictionary. Also, it is a good chance to talk to someone and speak more English.’

These are just three examples of some of the work we’re doing, and the benefits to these individuals, not to mention their friends, families and communities, is obvious.

Why are we telling you this now? Well, 11th to 18th May is Adult Learners Week, and we’ve put together a special programme of events showcasing some of the opportunities for learning in libraries. And this is where you can get involved.

You could follow in the footsteps (literally) of Robert Louis Stevenson with our themed walk, find out how to get started with e-books or sign up to explore some fantastic image and video archives.

We’ve got poetry sessions for people learning English as a second language, family history for beginners, a tour of our historic central library and some of those Learn I.T. taster sessions for the technophobic.

There’s lots more going on all over Edinburgh, too much to list here in fact, so head over to the Join In Edinburgh site to find the events that appeal to you most.

If you’d like to find out more about any of the courses mentioned in this article, or any aspect of adult education in libraries, please contact wendy.pearson@edinburgh.gov.uk

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