Area librarians get an education on distance learning during workshop

MARSHALL – Times are a changin’ and libraries have to keep up with those changes. With increasing frequency, patrons will want to use library facilities to further their education, and librarians must keep up with the latest resources in order to direct them to what is available.

“Things are changing and we need to know about distance learning,” said Kathie Behrens, the head librarian at Madison/Canby/Dawson/Granite Falls Public libraries.

Behrens is one of 10 librarians who came from around the region, including Worthington and Montevideo, to attend an Adult Basic Education workshop for library staff Tuesday at the Marshall-Lyon County Library.

People who are completing their General Educational Development tests may not be able to travel to their nearest ABE location, but they can get to their library, said Pat Thomas, the coordinator for Adult Basic Education Southwest Minnesota.

“If someone in Slayton, for example, wants to work on their GED, we have no physical presence in Slayton – or Ruthton or Tyler. They could go to their local library,” Thomas said. “We need to make librarians aware of the vast amount of resources that are available. Libraries have changed to meet the needs of the community.”

“Adult education must continue without allowing distance as a barrier,” Thomas added.

“Libraries always have offered resources for the community,” said Paula Nemes, Marshall-Lyon County librarian. (This workshop) makes us more knowledgeable if someone comes to us saying they are working on their GED. We’ll know they’ll want a certain book. We’re not specialists, but we’ll know how to direct them, know what resources are available for our patrons.”

In addition to being convenient locations, Thomas said, libraries are “safe places and neutral – there is no stigma to going to them.” People may have negative associations going to offices near a courthouse, Thomas said.

Some of the issues that librarians were informed about Tuesday included the GED test that will be new in 2014. Individuals currently working toward their GED must finish all five parts by the end of the 2013 or start over.

Thomas said an alliance between libraries and Adult Education/Workforce came out of an initiative the Otto Bremer Foundation created – the L3 project. Focusing on literacy, a Marshall team comprised of Adult Education, the library, Workforce, Public Health/Human Services, Western Community Action and the Southwest Minnesota Volunteer Literacy staff have collaborated in this effort.

“Participation in this initiative has laid the groundwork to bring about the idea of this meeting,” Thomas said.