P.L.A.I.L. arises from the rapidly growing customer demand (in terms of numbers, complexity and range) being experienced by public libraries throughout the European Community to provide information guidance and library materials support for independent learners. P.L.A.I.L. aims to help public libraries develop innovative and enhanced services which puts them in a position to meet this demand. More specifically, the objectives of the project are
- to improve the professional expertise and to raise the level of competence of public library staff as regards its ability
- to apply and exploit new technologies in a public library setting in order to facilitate cost effective access for customers to appropriate information and study support.
P.L.A.I.L. will establish replicable patterns for how innovative services can be developed and introduced in public libraries.
Impact and expected results:
The research and practical experimentation planned by the partners will, at the end of the project period, provide the basis for the rapid development of public library service provision to this customer group. Major outputs will include:
- A clear statement of norms and competency levels for public librarians working within this area of activity.
- Recommendations regarding the use of information technology to enable public librarians and public library services to attain such standards and levels of service.
- Guidelines on the training needs of public librarians in responding to adult independent learners.
- A major dissemination programme both within the specific countries involved in this project and across the wider European Union.
The reports concluded that public libraries were ideally placed to serve the needs of adult independent learners, especially in view of the many barriers - identified by PLAIL - which prevent them from embarking on more formal courses of study.
With the final report and package evaluations still outstanding, PLAIL will deliver three public domain reports, based on study themes, and a training package:
The Needs of Adult Independent Learners, derived from data obtained in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom;
The Use of IT in Staff Training and in Support of Adult Independent Learners, which assesses the prevailing status of public library technology, staff training and adult learner support and recommends a phased programme of development using the most commonly available media, but progressing towards multimedia capability;
The Skills and Competencies Required by Librarians to Support Adult Independent Learners, which builds on the analyses of the findings of the above reports;
The training package will include CBT (Computer Based Training) on CD-ROM, video and supporting materials.
The workpackages and tasks which constituted PLAIL were:
Identifying the needs of adult independent learners;
information, materials, facilities and equipment;
counselling: advice and guidance;
The role of Information Technology;
state of the art of IT in training related to libraries;
current provision of IT in libraries in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom: European overview;
development using existing and impending technology;
Analysis of results;
Definition of performance indicators in five groups - information; materials; equipment and facilities; guidance and support; marketing and promotion - against which public library authorities can measure their own services.;
Training package, produced on a range of media, including video and CD-ROM;
Pilot, to trial and evaluate the training package at libraries in each partner country;
Information dissemination, with a series of seminars designed to raise the awareness of librarians in regard to adult learner needs.
The project had to answer five crucial questions:
What are the needs of adult independent learners ?
What services can meet those needs ?
To what extent do those services rely on (or could benefit from) information technology ?
What skills are necessary to provide the services ?
Can those skills be acquired via information technology ?
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