25 November, 2009

The Big Issues Seminar

Storytime at Epping Plaza - outreach to all

The Big Issues Seminar was held at the State Library last Monday and featured 3 keynote speakers.

Tom Bentley, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister, has an interesting background in education policy in the UK. He has written a book called "Learning beyond the classroom" and he highlighted the role that libraries can play in lifelong learning. He spoke about the need to recluster education and learning in a broader community network and saw the potential of public libraries as third places for young people.

Patricia Faulkner is the Chair of the Social Inclusion Board. She described their focus so far as being on those with locational disadvantage, jobless families with children, children at greatest risk and measuring social inclusion. Patricia urged us to become involved in aggressive outreach to these people, they are unlikely to be library users and it is necessary for the library to go where they are.

Bill Thompson is a technology commentator for the BBC. He described this current period in human history as a time of profound change and transition, equivalent to the beginning of the agricultural revolution. He talked about the role of libraries in a pervasively networked world and the library's role in ensuring that people don't get left behind. It is not so much access to pcs they need now as the ability to be skilled in using online services and accessing online information.

The two common themes that emerged from the day were:

1. The library as hub or 3rd place to close the digital divide, for the learning agenda of Tom Bentley, the social inclusion of Patricia Faulkner, and the possibilities of easing across the transition for Bill Thompson. This is the connection point, the hub, where people can become empowered, the place where people can become literate in digital and print.

2. The ability to remain relevant to the over served as well as the under served. Every community needs a public knowledge space where all can contribute and have a common meeting ground. There is a need for libraries in affluent areas too as hubs for old and new literacies.

It was a very interesting day.

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