Hamilton City Library

In 2012 Hamilton City Libraries set up its Service Development Team, and with it created a specialist position – Lifelong Learning Librarian. Today three of the five goals in the libraries’ strategic plan – libraries as a community hub, libraries optimise the use of technology, libraries support literacy and promote reader development – are relevant to promoting lifelong learning.

It’s four years since we wrote about Hamilton City Libraries’ support for lifelong learning and many of the activities are still going strong. In collaboration with other groups libraries hold general classes such as Russian Language and English Conversation, classes for people with disabilities and support groups such as a writers group. One of the libraries’ major initiatives is its Computer Mentor Programme. This involves volunteers providing support in one-hour bookable time slots for people who need some help with computers and understanding digital technology and the online world. The type of help needed varies widely but includes seeking employment, CV writing and setting up email or Facebook accounts. The libraries’ website is also a wealth of information with links to other adult learning opportunities in Hamilton, (including the Adult Education courses provided at Hamilton’s Fraser High School) and links to online sites providing learning opportunities such as te reo, ESOL, sign language and free university courses.

Although the Central Library building is currently undergoing earthquake strengthening work, libraries’ staff are still in the business of taking learning into the community at the network of suburban libraries.

One of libraries’ big projects last year was the digital roadshow. Helped by a grant from ACE Aotearoa’s Adult Learners’ Week He Tangata Mātauranga fund the libraries’ staff took digital devices supplied by local business PB Technologies into five retirement villages and rest homes. The sessions started with a PowerPoint presentation on the libraries’ resources and residents were shown how they can access eBooks and eMagazines. About 100 people attended the sessions and they were so popular they look to be part of the libraries’ ongoing work with plans to take it out to the older generation still in their homes.

Another project, set to be repeated this year, is Matariki in the City. Lifelong Learning Librarian, Lindsay Knowles, says the service is not just about running courses: staff work with others to bring people together to learn about other cultures. Matariki in the City was a big celebration about many cultures represented in New Zealand communities.

“We collaborate with others wherever we can,” says Lindsay. “We are always looking at how we can support organisations. Recently we have been talking with a health network in Auckland who would like to bring their bilingual health presentations into the Waikato. We have also been talking with the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology at Massey University. In the past they have partnered with Palmerston North City Library to provide talks on demystifying technology in our world, and those staff are keen to provide the information to other communities.”

The libraries also supply Community Noticeboards which are available for groups to display information about courses and classes, as well as space for groups to provide displays around events such as the Chinese New Year, and International Women’s Day. As the New Zealand Census this year was mostly online the libraries found ways of supporting people who were unable to complete this at home. Another new initiative is an intergenerational programme, providing an opportunity for pre-schoolers to meet with and get to know elderly people. And of course, the libraries are always looking at ways to encourage literacy in their community. With that in mind they began a Summer Reading Challenge for ages 13+ this year with prizes to encourage involvement.

Hamilton City Libraries, like many other municipal library services, is playing an important role in supporting participation in lifelong learning, and building social cohesion.

This article was published in the ACE Aotearoa Winter Newsletter 2018.