Learning Lounges at Riverside County Library System Riverside, California

The Riverside County Library System (RCLS) is a network of 35 libraries that provides services and resources to 2.5 million people over 7,200 square miles in southern California. The system joined the P3 project with the intention of adding an in-person Learning Lounge first to its Cathedral City branch and later to other branches where the flexible support offered in the Lounge could supplement ongoing adult literacy and English tutoring. The plan was to focus some hours on job-related support and other hours on technology-related skill building. The lounge would be managed by staff composed of bilingual literacy staff, a volunteer career coach, and technology coaches.

The pandemic prompted the shift to a virtual Learning Lounge model. In preparation, the library conducted training for tutors to familiarize them with Zoom and online educational resources that would be useful for adult visitors. Nevertheless, the challenge of recruiting visitors to a virtual service that was new and unfamiliar proved too great, and the library-based Lounges were put on hold.

However, the library was able to adapt the Learning Lounge model to offer as a core program for its new mobile literacy resource vans. These vehicles, which replaced the more traditional bookmobiles, serve remote and rural regions of the county where the mostly Spanish-speaking population struggles with access and internet connectivity issues. In the vans, residents can access devices and mobile hotspots, and get help navigating online educational and workforce resources. The vans are able to make stops at parks, community organizations, mobile parks, senior centers, and schools.

Long-term, the library still plans to host in-person Learning Lounge hours at three locations. In concert with the mobile literacy resource vans, this model can enhance the library’s role as a community education center.

Lessons learned: 

  • Staff who were assigned to work in the mobile literacy resource vans were concerned they didn’t have skills to effectively assist adults and youth with a variety of needs, simultaneously. To address staff concerns, in-service training was offered and included role-plays that modeled scenarios of welcoming visitors to the van and juggling the needs of multiple visitors at one time. This training was essential in preparing staff to work in the resource vans.
  • One of the factors that contributed to the success of the mobile resource vans was partnering with businesses and organizations in the community. The Riverside County  Library System collaborated with these partners to determine the best locations for the van to visit, the needs of the people who used services at these locations, the days and times that would be ideal for the van visits, and the type of resources that would be most helpful.