“Put money in thy purse.” (Othello)
I was never much of a student. I slouched through school, did the Telegraph crossword at college, and that was about it. But at least it didn’t cost me anything. If I wanted to get a few more qualifications now, learn a new skill, or just get up to speed with computers, it could cost me a packet – unless I did it at the library.
Libraries have an arsenal of learning opportunities, mostly free and the rest very cheap. So what can I learn? Let’s start with computers. Feel the quality, feel the width – there are short courses and long courses, from one-off taster sessions to multi-week adventures in the amazing possibilities of being online and in control. There are sessions just for older people, and sessions for people new to English, or people from particular areas (it’s all about the funding). What’s on offer varies from library to library. Something for everyone? Pretty close, I’d say.
Two libraries – Queen’s Park and Church Street – have learning centres where individuals and groups can find tip-top facilities with a bit of peace and quiet. And Marylebone Library has an inflatable training room. No, really, they do – it’s a large white blob which hisses quietly, wobbles gently and swallows ten people at a time for a training session.
The trick is to check what’s on offer at your local library, widen your search to other Westminster libraries if necessary, and contact us if you don’t find what you need – we frequently run sessions just because enough people ask for them!
And now to bed… or the kitchen table… or the train or – you get the picture.
Learning outside the library with a little bit of help from us. Actually, quite a lot of help, free of course. If you’re looking for more structured courses in using computers, leading perhaps to a certificate for your CV, or if you’re running a small business and need to get to grips with business law, finance, marketing or (the dreaded) health and safety, you need Learning Nexus. This used to be called Ivy Learning, which I rather liked. Now it’s called Learning Nexus, which isn’t so cuddly. But the product is great.
The deal is that you turn up at least once at any Westminster library; show your library membership card (or join up on the spot – bring a gas bill or a bank statement or similar to prove your address); you sit and relax for a few minutes while the nice library person sorts you out a login to Learning Nexus; and you’re away. Microsoft Office, ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence – v useful), desktop publishing… the list of computer courses takes up a page of our Learning Nexus leaflet. And the facing page is crammed with the business courses, including leadership, presentation, fire safety, and bullying in the workplace. I picked these at random – there are 38 courses altogether.
These all come free, and they are available whenever and wherever you get a few minutes to use them. Because you have a personal login, the programme remembers where you got to, and you can do tests to see whether you are ready to take an exam and get a certificate. You can’t sit an exam through the website. But guess who can help you find an exam centre – yes, you’re right, it’s the library! So you have been paying attention.
Sorry this post is so long. Believe me, I’ve just scratched the cost-free surface.