Open questions and challenges for volunteer-led learning circles

These notes came from a discussion held at the Boston Gathering (September 2019), and later during meetings in Pittsburgh (October 2019) about creating volunteer-led learning circles and learning programs in a public library setting.

Open Questions

  • Will there be a designated staff in the room for these programs?
  • How can Americorps Vistas be involved?
  • Will there be a code of conduct? Will it be different than the volunteer code of conduct? Or, should learning circle facilitators have some kind of code of conduct that is separate from being a facilitator at the library?
  • Are there constraints for what kind of learning circles can run by volunteers in the library? Which learning circles will be allowed? Who will moderate this process? From the library side, or from P2PU, or from some other separate group or partner (ex: a regional committee)? This issue came up when we simply question to ourselves if this is a library program or not.
  • What do peer facilitators need to promote their learning programs?

Challenges to consider

  • Volunteers who have prior expertise (for example a job developer who knows to code), but it’s unclear if these experts have the soft skills. How do we weigh expertise for these types of programs?
  • It’s not only a match between the interest of volunteers and space available. There should also be a balance of libraries’ wants/needs, communities’ wants and needs, facilitator’s wants and needs.
  • It might be difficult to lead a discussion when you run into ethical issues.