Lernwelten Hamburg Educational Services at the Click

Website of Lernwelten Hamburg
Website of Lernwelten Hamburg | Photo (detail): © Lernwelten Hamburg

Lernwelten Hamburg, a portal run by the city’s school library centre, provides a clear overview of the wide range of educational and learning services on offer to schoolchildren, teachers and nursery school educators at Hamburg’s Bücherhallen libraries.

Hamburg’s public libraries have always offered a wide range of services for nurseries and schools. “In recent decades, however, we have added numerous services for these target groups that can also be accessed via the Internet rather than only being available in the library itself”, explains Ingrid Lange-Bohaumilitzky, the director of the Schulbibliothekarische Arbeitsstelle (SBA), the city’s school library centre. “Lernwelten Hamburg is designed to make it easier to access the services offered by Hamburg’s Bücherhallen – so that schoolchildren, teachers and educators can actually take advantage of the broad variety of functions on offer there. For this reason we intentionally made the portal as pragmatic and user-friendly as possible.”

Learning at the library

Among other things, the portal helps schoolchildren acquire information and media skills, offering training modules for topic-based information research. The children are given tips about how to prepare presentations and write essays, learn about researching media in the library’s catalogues and databases, and are given help with evaluating Internet sources.

Last but not least, the website also draws the children’s attention to the “Learning and Information Centre” at the central library of the Bücherhallen Hamburg (which runs the city’s libraries); it boasts 50 workstations with Internet access, as well as specialist databases and E-Learning portals. “Schools still tend to focus on academic libraries when it comes to developing media and information skills”, says Lange-Bohaumilitzky, who has a degree in library studies. “Unfortunately, many have yet to take fully on board the fact that public libraries also play an increasingly important role in this area.”

Toolbox for school libraries

The SBA in Hamburg is a department of the Foundation of Hamburg Public Libraries and coordinates the cooperation between the city’s public libraries, schools and nurseries. For this purpose, cooperation agreements have been concluded with the city’s Ministry of Schools and Vocational Training and its Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Families and Integration.

“Our job is to ensure that school libraries can be professionally run”, says Lange-Bohaumilitzky. “To this end, we offer comprehensive expert advice for all libraries at Hamburg’s schools – everything from developing a sound library concept and planning how to finance and set up the library, right up to concrete aspects of organization such as how to run the library and keep its collection up-to-date.”

At present, the SBA is supporting around 60 school libraries throughout the city. The Lernwelten portal also offers an extensive “toolbox” which helps those in charge of school libraries to plan and reorganize their facilities.

The school libraries, which are part of the Bücherhallen system, receive a professional collection from the SBA that is set up and organized in exactly the same way as the collection in the public library. “This reduces people’s inhibitions about using the Bücherhallen libraries – especially for children who otherwise have little contact with the library.”

Services for nursery schools

Hamburg’s Lernwelten portal also draws the attention of nursery school staff to the special services offered by the Bücherhallen and encourages them to seek the advice of the experts there. “We support nursery school teachers with implementing the curriculum which applies to all Hamburg nurseries. For this purpose, we also buy in training events. What is more, all Bücherhallen libraries have a small extra collection for nursery schools and offer thematic workshops for ‘early learning’”, emphasizes Lange-Bohaumilitzky. Educators and teachers also receive free library cards from the Bücherhallen, and the libraries can on request put together boxes of books related to a particular theme or tailored to individual needs – these then remain at kindergartens or schools for a set period of time.

“I believe it takes quite a while before people really notice that a portal of this kind exists. We are using postcards and info flyers in an attempt to increase awareness”, says Ingrid Lange-Bohaumilitzky. “Ultimately, however, use of the Lernwelten Hamburg website will require schools not to see libraries only in the context of their relevance to book reading but to start working with books and digital information media as a matter of course – which hopefully they will start doing with great intensity in the very near future.”