Learning Lounges at the Fuller Public Library Fuller, New Hampshire

Fuller Public Library serves the central New Hampshire towns of Hillsborough and Windsor. The library's literacy program, Project LIFT, provides volunteer tutors for individual and small group instruction in the surrounding towns.

The library chose to implement a Learning Lounge because it wanted to be able to offer a range of adult education and workforce services. Their goal was to extend their services in a way that was manageable for staff and volunteers. Learning Lounges appealed to them because they are less formal than the literacy program's tutoring and small group instruction.

Although originally planned to be in person, the pandemic compelled the Learning Lounge to be implemented as a virtual program. That meant recruiting volunteers who were comfortable using technology and then training them to effectively onboard patrons with limited technology skills to online resources. Those users would be at home accessing a range of digital materials from different types of devices— phones and computers.

Despite extensive outreach efforts and the community’s clear need for support in completing tasks such as resumes and job applications, accessing email, and making healthcare appointments during the pandemic, recruitment for virtual services remained difficult. Seniors, in particular, expressed concern about scams and computer security. Nevertheless, the library pushed forward, working with community partners to promote the Learning Lounge and relying on word of mouth through its own adult education students.

The library also continued conversations about expanding the Learning Lounge model to libraries in towns that Project LIFT served. For small libraries without a physical place for people to meet, a virtual Learning Lounge could be ideal. Fuller offered to develop a training packet, a job description, and coaching for satellite sites. As the P3 pilot came to a close, Fuller Public Library was awarded an IMLS grant to expand its model to a neighboring library system to establish a Career and Education Support Center at each branch.

Lessons learned: 

  • Staff at Fuller Library learned how important it is to be comfortable in supporting adults in using technology. As they recruited volunteers to work in Learning Lounges, they realized the need to train volunteers on strategies for working with adults with developing digital literacy skills. Volunteers also needed guidance in how to select resources to meet an individual’s needs.
  • Community partnerships are essential to the growth of Learning Lounges in terms of recruitment of learners and sustainable funding. Fuller library worked with Greater Hillsborough Senior Services, and local welfare offices to recruit learners.