Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Building a Learning Community: The Brimbank Libraries Strategy

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Building a Learning Community: The Brimbank Libraries Strategy

Article excerpt

Creating a community of lifelong learners is one of Brimbank City Council's strategic directions for community well- being and improving the social and economic outcomes of individuals and the community. Brimbank's libraries have been repositioned to support community aspirations through lifelong learning. Library programs have a learning focus and a framework has been developed to ensure that programs support learning needs and aspirations. Edited version of a paper presented at the conference 'Learning for all: public libraries in Australia and New Zealand Melbourne 13-14 September'.


Brimbank is 11 kilometres west of the Melbourne central business district. It is the second largest municipality in Melbourne and the largest in Melbourne's western region, with a population of 190,000. Large sections of it have low socioeconomic status, areas of high educational disadvantage and high rates of youth unemployment. The 2006 ABS census data (1) provided strong evidence of the need for council to support learning in its communities

* 13% of Brimbank residents had only completed their education to year 8 or below compared to 8% in greater Melbourne

* education participation rates in Brimbank were lower for 15-24 year olds with 24% compared to 30% in greater Melbourne

* 41% of Brimbank residents had completed year 12 compared with 49% in greater Melbourne

* 15% of residents had a bachelor or higher degree compared to 27% in greater Melbourne nearly 20% of 15 to 19 year olds were not engaged in work or education.

Brimbank has higher levels of unemployment than that of greater Melbourne and the Socioeconomic indexes for areas (Seifa) (2) lists it as one of the lowest socioeconomic areas in Melbourne. Brimbank also has many strengths, one of which is its cultural diversity--it is one of the most culturally diverse municipalities in Australia with

* over 150 languages spoken

* 43% of resident born overseas

* 54% speaking a language other than English

* a large number of second and third generation migrants who speak their native language at home.

In addition to the cultural diversity, 24% of the residents born overseas have low or no English literacy.

Community plan and learning strategy

In 2008 council commenced an extensive process of engaging and consulting with the community to create the Brimbank community plan 2009-2030. (3) This is its first community based plan and sets the direction for the council plans and therefore the work that council undertakes. One of the strategic directions in the community plan is the creation of a learning community. The libraries and learning department has a lead role in this.

In 2009 the department engaged and consulted with 120 plus individuals and organisations to develop the Brimbank community learning strategy. (4) This was completed and published in 2010 and provides a framework for collaboration and partnerships to support the development of a learning community. Its vision is

   To build a community of lifelong learners by
   working with partner organisations to empower
   people to take control of their lives, raise aspirations,
   enhance employability and build active citizenship
   and quality of life in Brimbank.

The implementation of the strategy is the responsibility of the libraries and learning department. The strategy provides a framework for supporting learning as a means of improving social and economic outcomes for individuals and communities. It supports learning in all life phases so that Brimbank develops as a community of lifelong learners in which people embrace learning as a way of life (see appendix). In order to strengthen council's commitment to lifelong learning significant work was undertaken to reposition the libraries.

Repositioning library services

The repositioning of the libraries enabled the allocation of significant staff resources for the development and delivery of programs/learning opportunities. …

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