Library pedagogy “We Need More Educational Content”

Because libraries are increasingly seen as centres of lifelong learning, the importance of library pedagogy is also growing. Kerstin Keller-Loibl, professor at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK), explains how this is affecting the training of librarians.

Ms Keller-Loibl, how long has library pedagogy been a relevant issue in Germany?

It was particularly in the wake of the PISA study in 2000 and the debate on education it triggered that greater attention was focused again on the educational role played by libraries. Libraries can support lifelong learning and the acquisition of key qualifications such as reading, media skills and information literacy.

In order to give a name to these new educational activities, the term Bibliothekspädagogik – library pedagogy – has now become increasingly widespread in Germany. Given that the words Museumspädagogik (museum pedagogy), Theaterpädagogik (theatre pedagogy) and Freizeitpädagogik (leisure pedagogy) have already become established in Germany, this seems to me to be a very appropriate term to use.

Promoting reading skills and information literacy

What does “library pedagogy” actually encompass?

Libraries make educational services available to all their usual target groups – to children, young people, students, adults, families and senior citizens, as well as to “multipliers” such as educators and teachers. A central objective of library pedagogy is to take the specific needs and interests of these target groups seriously and to initiate, support and accompany learning processes.

This includes not only promoting language acquisition and literacy in early childhood but also teaching information skills to students and providing special support for immigrants. The term encompasses all types of educational and teaching activities pursued by libraries.

What role is played by library pedagogy in the everyday work of librarians?

Library pedagogy is becoming increasingly relevant these days, not only in the context of modern “teaching library” concepts for academic libraries but also given the greater cooperation we are seeing between libraries and schools, nurseries and other educational institutions.

Libraries are increasingly evolving to become centres of non-formal and informal learning. Nowadays, their remit encompasses not only the promotion of literacy but also the teaching of media skills and information literacy to specific target groups – thus necessitating appropriately qualified library staff.

Training in pedagogy and didactics for librarians

What role does library pedagogy play in the training of librarians?

To date, there has been little or no teaching of pedagogical knowledge and skills at German universities that run professional degree programmes for librarians. Pedagogical and didactic content thus urgently needs to be incorporated into training courses for librarians.

In 2010, the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK) launched an M.A. degree course in Library and Information Science. This new degree programme, besides qualifying students for leadership roles, is the first at a German university to offer students the opportunity to obtain expertise in library pedagogy. The curriculum features relevant pedagogical content whereby the library is regarded as a place of learning and students are taught how to impart media skills to different target groups. This degree course, and especially its “library pedagogy” module, is in very great demand throughout Germany.

Creating learning opportunities for different target groups

What kind of content do you believe makes sense in this area of training?

During the master’s degree course in Leipzig, students are taught the basic principles of pedagogy, developmental psychology and adult education. Key aspects they study include models for learning, the creation of learning opportunities in different contexts, and the variety of applicable methods and techniques for different target groups.

Particular emphasis should be placed on the teaching of pedagogical and communication skills. In pedagogical practice, it is social relationships that count, and a crucial role is played by an openness towards other people and the ability to motivate and inspire. This is why the M.A. students at Leipzig develop hands-on concepts for educational events at libraries for children, young people and adults, and also put these to the test in real-life settings.

Theoretical teaching supplemented by practical tests

Are a handful of modules enough to teach people how to teach?

It is certainly not enough simply to teach the theory. In addition to pedagogical and didactical knowledge, students must acquire the skills which will allow them to work with different target groups, apply appropriate methods and forms of initiating and designing learning processes within the library and adapt these wherever necessary.

In Leipzig, students design and stage an event for a specific target group, carry out a practical project and complete a work experience placement in this area as an integral part of the “library pedagogy” module curriculum.