Kathleen de la Peña McCook

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Adult Education Resources for Librarians

LIS 6523 Adult Services in Libraries Course

Adult Education Resources

Librarians of all types are active in providing basic education and literacy services to adults.
Provided here are examples of books, articles, reports, and websites that demonstrate a commitment to this resource.

21st century library at your library, by the American Library Association. (alaAction 1, June 1, 2001). Click here for more information.

A model for library literacy: The lifelong learning center, by Hackleman, K. (Indiana Libraries 12:2, 1993, 16-20).

Adult education and literary provision in South African public libraries, by Rheina, E. (Cape Librarian 50:3, 2006, 46-47). “Discusses research on the status of adult education and literacy provision in public libraries in South Africa, commissioned by the Print industries Cluster Council (PICC) Working Group on Libraries, and undertaken by Cape Town City Libraries in 2004. The investigation was conducted through a postal survey collecting data over three years which was complemented by case studies. The survey showed that the majority of libraries are not involved in literacy activities. Main cause indicated was lack of resources, human and financial as well as material. Libraries that did participate usually worked in partnership with other organisations. Communication and promotion proved vital. Concludes that public libraries have an important role to play in adult education, and that library authorities should provide clear policy directions to support initiatives. Resolving the library funding issue is conditional for any library adult education project to succeed.”

Adult illiteracy: State library responses, by Strong, G.E. (Library Trends 35, 1986, 243-19).

Adult learners welcome here: A handbook for librarians and literacy teachers by Marguerite Crowley Weibel and Robert Wedgeworth (Neal Schuman Publishers March 30, 2007).

Adult learning and library helping, by Carr, D. (Library Trends 31, 1983, 569-15).

Adult learning in focus: National and State-by-State Data. (Librarian: Libraries as the Future of Culture and History 95, 2008). Click here for more information.

Adult learning in museums (Journal of Museum Education 33:1, Spring 2008). Many museums' missions emphasize visitor-centeredness, but relatively little research in the field has been dedicated to one of museums' most numerous constituents: the adult museum visitor. This issue of the Journal of Museum Education examines this important audience. As guest editor Robin S. Grenier states in her introduction to this volume, "Although each article looks at adult education in museums in a slightly different way and from the perspective of different adult populations, each challenges us as scholars and practitioners to broaden our own understanding of adult education and hopefully fosters a dialogue about museums as sites of adult learning." Articles in this issue include: "Nonformal and Informal Adult Learning in Museums: A Literature Review" (by Dana Dudzinska- Przesmitzki and Robin S. Grenier), "Museum Education: A Nonformal Education Perspective" (by Edward W. Taylor and Amanda C. Neill), "New Directions in Adult Education" (by Lynn McRainey), "Self-Directed Learning: Implications for Museums" (by Richard Banz), "Rethinking Museums' Adult Education for K-12 Teachers" (by Alan S. Marcus), and "Out on the Floor: Experiential Learning and the Implications for the Preparation of Docents" (by Robin S. Grenier and Barry Sheckley). Click here for more information.

Adult literacy in the third world: What role for the public library, by Kargbo, J. A. (World Libraries 11, 2001, 31-7).

ALA's role in adult and literacy education, by Coleman, J.E. (Library Trends 35, 1986, 207-11). 

Beyond four walls: Adult literacy services in Queensland public libraries, by Cooper, D. (Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services 17:3, 2004, 156-64). “Many library services offer programs that 'work in the context of people's lives in the community', and this has meant that more staff are venturing beyond the four walls of the library. This article describes the role of the State Library of Queensland in offering adult literacy services statewide, and showcases a number of libraries providing services and programs to rural and remote, indigenous, and metropolitan communities. Although resource constraints apply, the main limitation for libraries and their communities in providing adult literacy services are negative attitudes to a need in all communities, a need which is often hidden.”

Counseling and information needs of adult learners, by Knox, A.B. (Library Trends 31, 1983, 555-14. 

Education, Literacy, and Libraries, by Weingand, D.E. (Library Trends 35, Fall 1986, 183-345).

Founding and funding family literacy programs: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians, by Talan, C. (Journal of Youth Services in Libraries 13:3, 2000).

L4L to help AASL learning standards gain national recognition. The American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) Board of Directors approved the development of Learning 4 Life (L4L). L4L is a 3-5–year plan to nationally implement the "Standards for the 21st-Century Learner" and other guidelines being developed for school library media programs.The plan was approved during the American Library Association's (ALA) 2008 Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif. A full launch of L4L is scheduled for fall 2008.Click here to view the press release.

Literacy and adult education: Extending the right to know, by Rolstad, G. O. (1993, United States: American Library Association, 30-4). 

 Making the vital link, by Clarke, G. (Public Library Journal 19:4, 2004, 18-19).

Potential unexploited: Public libraries and adult literacy, by Cram, J. (Progressive Librarian 18, 2001, 40-7). “I want you to come with me on a journey, a journey through the mindsets that hinder the full exploitation of resources that we already have in our libraries. You will notice that I use the word mindset rather than attitude… An attitude is something of which most of us are aware, and most people’s attitudes are, to a greater or lesser degree, fluid. If we cannot completely change an attitude, at least we find the boundaries of that attitude changing on a day to day basis. A mindset, on the other hand, is something of which we are generally not aware, simply because it is an ingrained way of looking at things.”

Report from the National Commission on Adult Literacy. Click here for more information.

The role of public libraries in lifelong learning - a project under the section of Public Libraries, IFLA, by Monroe, M. E. & Heim, K. M. (IFLA 1991). This booklet was prepared in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the watershed Adult Education Act of 1966, and in acknowledgement of the key role that libraries have played in U.S. adult education throughout the century. Written by library educators, the two commissioned papers that make up the booklet describe the role of public libraries in adult education since 1900. In the first paper,"Beginnings: Public Libraries and Adult Education from 1900 to 1966,"Margaret E. Monroe traces the development of literacy education in the context of library adult education from the beginning of the 20th century until 1966. In the second paper, "The Developing Role of Public Libraries in Adult Education: 1966 to 1991," Kathleen M. Heim reviews the contributions of libraries and librarians to literacy, lifelong learning, and adult education over the past 25 years. The booklet concludes with a list of 117 selected readings which relate to the theme of libraries and adult education. Click here for more information.

Supporting lifelong learning in public libraries across Europe, by Eve, J., DeGroot, M. & Schmidt, A. (Library Review 56:5, 2007, 393-406.

Teaching with Tiffany’s: A ‘go-lightly’ approach to information literacy instruction for adult and senior learners, by Gust, K.J. (Reference Services Review 34:4, 2006, 557-569). “The purpose of this paper is to present the lessons learned and alternative methods used in teaching library and internet searching skills to adult learners, especially senior citizens, in a non-credit course offered by the Michigan State University Evening College. Design/methodology/approach: The paper sets out the specific considerations taken in designing and executing an information literacy course for adult learners, along with observations and reflections, are described in detail and supported with evidence from research on adult learning theory and pedagogy. Preliminary sections describe the background and initial planning of the course, while additional sections describe each lesson learned in detail, including alternative teaching methods used and evaluation and assessment techniques. Findings: The paper provides essential tips and suggestions to consider when teaching library and internet-searching skills to adult learners, such as "keeping it simple", establishing a slower-paced learning environment, and providing unique and engaging class exercises. Also reports on successful alternative and unique approaches used when teaching adult learners. Research limitations/implications: Most of the evidence provided is from general observations by the librarian/instructor over three years. More formalized testing needs to be applied to better assess student learning, along with comparison of results over several more years. Practical implications: The paper is a highly useful source of practical information for librarians looking to teach unique user groups (adult learners, non-traditional students, or senior citizens) information literacy skills, in a university setting and using new and engaging teaching techniques. Originality/value: This paper offers innovative ideas and practical techniques using Breakfast at Tiffany's to use when teaching adult learners, especially senior citizens, information literacy skills.”

The evolution of literacy programs in the context of library adult education, by Monroe, M.E. (Library Trends 35, 1986, 197-9). 

The Rise of the Adult Education and Literacy System in the United States: 1600-2000. by Sticht, T. G. (Volume 3, Chapter 2). Click here to read the chapter.

UK public libraries: Roles in adult literacy provision, by McLoughlin, C. and Morris, A. (Journal of Librarianship and Information Science 36:1, 2004, 37-46). “Reported here are the results of a research project that examined the role of UK public libraries in addressing adult literacy including approaches and issues. Eight public libraries were selected as case studies and adult literacy provision was investigated using staff interviews. The interviews provided support for the role of public libraries in promoting the pleasure of reading to adults with poor literacy. The re-branding of adult literacy collections was recognized as the ideal starting point for the rejuvenation of adult literacy work. Approaches used to address poor adult literacy included the use of reading groups, talking books, themed activities and events, and student book buying. A role for public libraries in identifying adults with poor literacy was acknowledged as part of multi-agency work. The main issues facing public libraries in the delivery of adult literacy services concerned establishing dedicated staff time and identifying funding opportunities. Recommendations are provided for public libraries involved in establishing or reviewing adult literacy services.”

Working with adult new learners: Library/literacy program partnership, by Little, C. (Illinois Libraries 83:2, 2001, 25-28).

Workplace Literacy Discussion List, by the National Institute for Literacy. The Workplace Discussion List is for adult educators working or interested in workplace literacy and workforce education. This list features discussions about workplace literacy issues such as marketing, funding, program design, instruction, curricula, assessment, evaluation, staff training, research, and policy. Click here to subscribe.

Influences on Adult Education

Paulo Freire (1921-1997) was a Brazilian educationalist, who has left a significant mark on thinking about progressive practice. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia). Freire was able to draw upon, and weave together, a number of strands of thinking about educational practice and liberation. Freire certainly made a number of important theoretical innovations that have had a considerable impact on the development of educational practice - and on informal education and popular education in particular. In 1962, he conducted his first experiment in while 300 farm workers were taught to read and write in just 45 days.

Adult Education Statistics

2005 U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education National Adult Education Profiles Report: Click here for more information.

2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy: Click here for more information.

2005 State of Florida Adult Education Statistics: Click here for more information.  

Examples of Libraries Conducting Adult Education Programs 

Adult Literacy Services including the following programs:

  • Adult Literacy Program - Work one on one with an adult tutor to improve your reading and  literacy  skills. Tutors meet with students in any branch of the Los Angeles Public  Library. This service is  free. They meet twice a week for 1 to 1½ hours at a time for a minimum of six months.
  • Families for Literacy - Parents of children under the age of five who are enrolled in our Adult  Literacy or Limited English Proficiency program are eligible for free children's books. Our tutors and  staff teach students how to read to their children.

Organizations Currently Focused on Adult Education 

National Programs

The Division of Adult Education and Literacy (DAEL) promotes programs that help American adults get the basic skills they need to be productive workers, family members, and citizens. The major areas of support are Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, and English Language Acquisition. These programs emphasize basic skills such as reading, writing, math, English language competency, and problem-solving.

Adult education and literacy programs are funded through federal grants to the states. The amount each state receives is based on a formula established by Congress. States, in turn, distribute funds to local eligible entities to provide adult education and literacy services. Individuals and local providers cannot receive grant money directly from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE).

The Commission on Adult Basic Education is organized to advance national and international adult education and literacy opportunities for all persons. The purposes of COABE are:

Florida Programs 

ABE Florida is a comprehensive adult basic education program designed to provide practitioners in Florida with all the necessary components to be successful in a performance-based funding environment. ABE Florida includes state of Florida Department of Education approved frameworks, resources, assessment, a mailing list and Web site. The frameworks and resources are based on input from statewide practitioners as to what would be necessary for an ABE program to be successful under the workforce development guidelines and procedures. The comprehensive program will also assist with statewide standardization of adult basic education courses.

Established in 1985, The Florida Literacy Coalition (FLC) promotes, supports and advocates for the effective delivery of quality adult and family literacy services in the state of Florida. As a statewide umbrella literacy organization and the host of Florida’s State Literacy Resource Center, FLC provides a range of services to support more than 300 adult education, literacy and family literacy providers throughout Florida. Special emphasis is placed on assisting community based literacy organizations with their training and program development needs.

Meeting the diverse adult & family literacy needs of Florida because knowing how to read is important. Through a community-based approach, the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services provides grants, training, and consulting services to help public libraries and their partners design and improve adult and family literacy programs.


Updated 06.17.08 - Please e-mail all comments to Kathleen de la Peña McCook at kmccook@tampabay.rr.com.
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