The first week in September this year is Adult Learners Week, a campaign that aims to encourage the motto that when it comes to learning, there’s no use by date. No matter your age, level of education, or background, you can always seize the opportunity to learn something new. This can be ad hoc or in a more formalised setting, but it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.
In fact, this old library dog is learning a few tricks of her own. As a library officer in a rural library, I didn’t need any qualifications to apply for this role. I didn’t have any experience working in a library – just a strong customer service background, people skills, and a love of reading. In fact, you may be surprised to discover that I’ve been making it up as I go along!
As part of my professional development for work, I was offered the opportunity to complete my Certificate 4 and Diploma of Library and Information Services through TAFE. I figured that after six years of doing my own thing, it would be great to actually learn how to officially do my job. And so mid-way through 2022, I became a student, studying online.
To say it’s been a challenge is understating things. I didn’t realise that for my first semester I was actually enrolled in full-time study. That amount of workload, as well as working full-time at the library, plus volunteering, was absolutely hectic. In that time, I also went to visit my Dad in Canada and so I was away from home for four weeks. I had 16 assignments due over the course of 11 weeks and I got to a point where I seriously reconsidered my life choices.
When enrolling for the start of this year, I dropped down to only half the units and, whilst still challenging, it’s been more manageable. There are still some days when my eyes glaze over and I wonder why the hell I’m putting myself through this, but ultimately it will be worth it.
So, what are the benefits? Well, the shiny Diploma I will have at the end when I’m a certified Library Technician will qualify me for professional membership into ALIA (the Australian Library and Information Association). Almost all management roles in libraries require an ALIA membership so if I did chose to ride off into the sunset towards another library, I would have that under my belt.
For my current role at the Bindoon Library, it gives me knowledge and skills I didn’t already have that will help me improve the services here. From local stock to events to the day-to-day running of the library, there are improvements to be made with the new skills I have.
Then there’s the sense of accomplishment that comes with adult learning as well as the benefits of mental stimulation. It’s fulfilling to work hard and achieve goals. It’s also nice to know that I’m still able to learn new things. That this old dog can be taught, can develop new skills, can evolve.
By the time you read this, Adult Learners Week may be over but if you’re interested in how to get started on your lifelong learning journey, check out their website at adultlearnersweek.org for hints and tips to get you started.