VOLARE: Adult learning – with the library as arena

During the period September 2007 – September 2008 the Drammen Public Library and Oslo University College in cooperation with Vox (Norwegian Institute for Adult Learning) carried out the project VOLARE. The aim of the project was to test and develop a model for library-supported adult learning.

Why choose libraries as arenas for improving digital competence?

The rapid digitisation of the Norwegian economy and society is creating a widening gap between those who know how to use basic digital tools and services and those who lack these skills. A large number of libraries have contributed to developing digital competence through the programme entitled ‘Seniorsurf ’. The Drammen Library wished to improve upon this service and help create a model which could be adopted nationwide.

The Drammen Public Library as venue for the VOLARE project The project was carried out mainly by the Drammen Library, making use of the city library itself and the district library at Fjell. The Ringerike municipal library also took part. All three libraries are located in the county of Buskerud, west of Oslo.

The project was divided into two parts. The first was devoted to giving the library’s own staff tuition in teaching adults so as to be able to offer the public an improved learning opportunity.

The second part of the project was to develop and test a plan for systematic tuition in information searching and use of the Internet. The result, New to the Net, was directed at adults with little or no computer knowledge, the aim being to provide them with a basic competence and thus make it easier for them to find work and to participate in society.We believed that immigrants and many Norwe-gians with limited schooling would find the tuition useful.

The library’s own staff were responsible for tuition and guidance, also for marketing the programme. In Fjell, which has a large immigrant population, we employed the resources of two local inhabitants, one with a Turkish and the other with a Pakistani background. The project manager provided professional support throughout the whole process with the assistance of the instructors and the project staff.

Experience from the project

Tuition was offered in three different forms – “drop-in” arrangements on selected weekdays, lessons booked in advance and mini-courses.We found that participants were mainly in need of personal, friendly, intensive tuition in the practical use of Internet-based ser-vices. Individual lessons were extremely popular and the instructors were highly praised for their efforts. The mini-courses also worked very well. Every single period of tuition was logged in the form of a short ‘history’. In this way the instructors’ experiences were effectively presented both internally and to the project management and others involved.

Challenges

As a project VOLARE was relatively modest, both technically and with regard to the use of resources, but it was quite a challenge in many ways. In addition to Oslo University College and the Drammen Public Library, both Vox and the Norwegian Institute for Adult learning and the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority were represented on the steering committee. This contributed to quality and relevance, but cooperation did not always run smoothly, partly because of differing expectations and partly because of different attitudes towards knowledge itself. Whilst some focused on the end-product in the form of a schematic model, others placed emphasis on the process itself and the organic, social nature of knowledge.

The project revealed different and sometimes conflicting views as to the type of conditions necessary to achieving a successful outcome. Many had doubts with regard to their computer skills and wanted to include an introductory ‘data course’, whereas the project itself laid the main emphasis on pedagogic qualities. The problems here lay partly in the area of communication between project participants and partly in attitudes and opinions inherent in a professional culture.

The project report was designed to provide a practical foundation for further initiatives in other libraries. Together with the experience from another, similar project, VOLARE forms the basis of the DIGIKOMBI project organised by the Archive, Library and Museum Authority. Here in Buskerud it represents the starting point for several future projects under the auspices of the county library.

Trond Minken
Head county librarian
Buskerud County

Trond.Minken AT bfk.no

Translated by Eric Deverill

Head county librarian Buskerud County