The Oppland County Library has initiated and coordinated the project Learn computer technology in your library with the participation of 14 municipalities. The library as a centre of learning in the field of further education is high on the county’s list of priorities. Libraries are to be found in all municipalities and exist in order to serve everybody, regardless of age or educational background. Librarians have all-round experience in providing users with advice and guidance and in addition possess good data competence and information skills. There is therefore every reason to make use of libraries for teaching purposes.
Background to the initiative
The initiative’s starting-point was that of a national objective combined with local library plans to make the inhabitants of the county of Oppland aware of libraries as flexible centres of learning and meeting places for the development of personal digital skills. A further aim of the project was to ensure wide participation and thus prevent a digital divide within the population. The libraries also wished to develop their role as arenas of digital learning, since they act as multicultural meeting places. It is important that libraries as impartial centres of learning should assist all members of the public in acquiring ICT-skills, thus contributing to the basic principles of inclusion, participation and democracy.
The Oppland County Library wished to create a model to show how a library could develop and improve its role as an arena of digital learning.
Co-operation with Vox
The spring of 2006 saw the start of cooperation with Vox, Norwegian Institute for Adult Learning. A course was arranged for members of library staff to help them provide guidance to users in the acquisition of basic digital compe-tence. When the project came to an end in the autumn of 2007, this service was available to the public at 14 libraries in Oppland. The project has shown itself to be much in demand and in the period from 2006 to 2008 about 1000 people have received guidance and tuition in basic digital skills. Instruction has taken the form of courses, small groups and one-to-one tuition.
Growth of the project throughout the county
At the start there were seven municipalities in a position to offer this service in both small and large libraries. Gradually the total number of libraries involved grew to 14.Marketing has played an important part. A brochure printed to describe the project was also issued in an English version. Posters were displayed at strategic points and the county library organised joint advertisements in local newspapers. The response from users was very positive, particular emphasis being laid on the fact that the service was free of charge and offered the possibility of individual tuition. The latter is quite unique, but demanding on resources.
In the autumn of 2006 the project was extended by inclusion in Stepping Stones into the Digital World, a European initiative with its roots in the Grundtvig programme. The project involved the cooperation of eight European countries sharing a common focus on developing arenas for the improvement of digital skills. The project’s frame of reference was one of ‘Best practice’ and laid emphasis on the need for libraries to assume the role of centres of digital learning.
The libraries involved co-operate with other organisations offering a similar service within the field of adult education. All municipalities are incorporated in regional library plans politically approved for the next 4-year period. In accordance with these plans libraries are committed to developing themselves as centres of learning for those seeking further and adult education. This is a politically-endorsed target area.
The positive reaction to the project has led to public libraries in the county of Oppland deciding to carry the initiative forward as an ordinary part of library services. Their motto is: In need of computer assistance? Ask your library!
Anne Margrete Rødevand
Library adviser Oppland County Library
anne.margrete.rodevand AT oppland.org
Translated by Eric Deverill