Position statement: literacy and learning

NSLA libraries have a long history of engagement with literacy and learning, beginning with nineteenth and early twentieth century notions of self-directed, informal learning, and libraries as a form of ‘people’s university’. In the twenty-first century, our role in community education is more active. As trusted, open, accessible sites with a clientele ranging from infants to senior citizens, we are uniquely placed to offer literacy and learning programs with a broad reach and the potential for strong social impact.

Key to this thinking is the concept that democratic societies are strengthened by an informed populace, and that libraries can – and should – enable individuals not only to source information, but to engage with it, interpret it, and ultimately use it to generate new knowledge. NSLA supports Howard Rheingold’s definition of literacy as 'a skill that includes not only the individual ability to decode and encode in a medium, but also the social ability to use the medium effectively in concert with others'. 

NSLA libraries are positioned outside of the formal education sector but work in complementarity with it, fostering partnerships across the commercial, not-for-profit, philanthropic and public sectors. These partnerships are strengthened by the high level of technical expertise and knowledge offered by NSLA libraries, and by our experience in the management of complex projects with extensive budgets. They benefit equally from our connections with diverse communities and networks including public libraries, schools, universities and higher education institutions, community organisations, and childcare and health organisations. 

NSLA libraries are well positioned to bring learning networks together, acting as catalysts for dynamic community initiatives and enterprise. They are accessible to the multicultural, multilingual, metropolitan, remote, mainstream and eclectic communities of Australia and New Zealand.

NSLA supports the continued contribution of NSLA libraries to literacy and learning in the community by: 

  • building relationships with key partners, including other education providers, with a view to fostering an integrated system of informal education; 
  • advocating the importance of community learning and literacy to government and key stakeholders in the education, health, community services and cultural sectors; 
  • demonstrating current interesting or exemplary practice in learning programs which are delivered onsite and online;
  • extending the discourse around literacy and learning within a public policy context; and
  • building capacity within NSLA libraries to support the sector more broadly.