Kansas City Public Library - Learning Circle Feedback

Hello Everyone!!!

I am the evaluation partner for P2PU and their Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) study of which the Kansas City Public Libraries are a part. I will be collecting and analyzing learner data as well as other information about Kansas City and five other library systems throughout the country that are participating in the of the study. Our goal is to determine how well Learning Circles (LCs) work in various environments with an effort to design support systems which further the success of LCs. Overall, the Learning Circle model was developed for public library systems to increase the likelihood of success in online educational formats for those without college degrees.

Your input is key!! Please share the successes, challenges and opportunities of your experiences with Learning Circles. Suggested topics include a wide array of areas including technology, curriculum, personalities, barriers and sources of personal motivation.

What types of experiences did you find most challenging or rewarding?

Please describe how you found out about LCs and what inspired you to become a facilitator. Would you be interested in connecting with other facilitators in Kansas City as well from other cities participating in the IMLS study to learn from their experiences?

If you are involved with outreach and engagement for the library – what efforts were implemented to bring attention to LCs? Are different branches experiencing higher levels of success? If so, what may be contributing factors?

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I am the Learning Circles Coordinator VISTA for KCPL. I spent most of my year here developing resources to empower and educate learners and facilitators. Meaning, my goals were to answer the who, what, where, and why of Learning Circles. (Who is the teacher? What are we learning? Where are the meetings? Why should I join? etc.)

Sustainability. We have developed resources (“3 Steps to a Learning Circle” tutorial, video training, and a monthly “101” workshop) that are timeless. They can be used by patrons and library staff alike. They are geared towards folks with beginner’s level digital literacy, as well as advanced techies. I aimed to make the materials as self-guided as possible, with the library as a support system on an “as needed” basis.

Participation. From both patrons and library employees. We struggled with marketing- how do we concisely underscore what Learning Circles are? Why they are important, worth while, and fun? People frequently approached me with ideas for Learning Circles, but without the motivation to get out there and find a course themselves, post some flyers, and facilitate the learning space. Everyone likes the idea, but aren’t truly engaging with the mission of Learning Circles. People hear “learn” and the automatically want a class. This, in part, motivated the creation of my new position at the library as a VISTA Leader. Starting in November, it will be my full-time focus to make connections with more community partners, and market pathways to digital literacy that include Learning Circles. Hopefully, by utilizing a marketing budget and making the right connections, Learning Circles will start to really take off in Kansas City.

The flexibility of the Learning Circle model made it a very easy pitch to other library departments, community partners, and even the local school district. When we can get people in the door to see and experience the importance of peer-learning in their community- that’s where the magic happens.

Hopefully this was helpful input! Feel free to reach out for any more questions!

Alexis, thank-you so much for your thorough and helpful response. Sounds like Kansas City is on its way to fully maximizing the availability and inclusion of LCs in the community.

Sustainability: How many branches are currently offering LCs? Is the monthly “101” workshop offered at a number of branches or only the main branch? In-person or on-line? How do I access? Is the training specific to Kansas City or something that could be shared with other Library systems? Have you been able to track how many have used the tutorial video or monthly workshop? When were they first instituted?

Participation: Are you targeting particular community partners to engage participation and are you utilizing individual branches in proximity to those partners? In reference to your comment, “People frequently…facilitate the learning space” – are most of your facilitators library staff members or do you have other community volunteers who facilitate LCs? With respect to your marketing budget, what is the overall strategy to promoting LCs across the system?

Facilitators: I would appreciate any help you could provide in encouraging LC facilitators to respond to my post.

While we are encouraging facilitators to use this community forum as a way of sharing their experiences, if there is anything that they may want to share privately with me to anonymously include in the evaluation, please feel free to have them contact me via my personal email: nailah.mbiti@gmail.com

The monthly workshop is offered only at Central Library. The goal is to support learners, as needed. If they would rather learn how to run a learning circle in-person, that is what the workshop is for. The training video isn’t finished yet, but it will be available (around January 2019) on https://my.nicheacademy.com/kclibrary. I will have more statistics as we continue to roll out the program, so only time will tell which resources people find most useful.

Most of our facilitators have been library staff. A year ago, it was our goal to have branch managers familiar enough with the concept to promote them at their own branches. But we found librarians are busy people… So, we switched gears and started developing ways to market “DIY Learning” to the community. I personally table at community events and try to engage with the community. We have several community partners who know of the LC program. Since I am only a VISTA, I cannot facilitate every Learning Circle idea people come up with. So now the long term goal is to have ample resources, online and in-person, that make people feel empowered enough to take control of their own education.

My department within the library, Tech Access, is a collection of technological resources. When it comes to community outreach, we must meet people where they are- we cannot assume everyone we are reaching out to is tech savvy. Our main goal is to make the community familiar enough with technology that they feel confident enough to start something like a Learning Circle. We see Learning Circles as one step in a much larger pathway to digital literacy for our patrons.

Thank-you for the update to my questions. I definitely feel expanding the potential facilitator cadre through DIY Learning might prove to be very valuable.

When is the November workshop scheduled? If my schedule permits, I’d like to sit in on it if you don’t mind. I also look forward to viewing the video. Feel free to send me any statistics as you collect them.