FE disconnected?

December 10, 1999

The pairing of further education and libraries is a rather neglected one (Opinion, THES, November 19). The role of libraries "is changing and their importance increasing" and that "the library is the first hope for delivering digital services, and knowledge of how to use them".

The People's Network wiring all public libraries, the New Opportunities-funded information and communications technology training for school teachers and librarians, and the Joint Information Systems Committee-funded eLib (electronic libraries) scheme all recognise this. So, it is a concern that the Further Education Funding Council report Networking Lifelong Learning omits the latter two examples, and largely ignores the major actual and potential role of librarians in FE colleges in supporting students' learning in the new electronic era.

In the age of "best value" and joined-up government this is a key challenge for the FEFC and other agencies. Your column notes that "this complex transition of our library services will need to be based on a significant research programme". There has been relatively very little research work specifically on FE libraries. Research into academic libraries is largely focused on higher education and of only partial relevance.

This is virgin territory for university researchers and the planned Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. To make networked lifelong learning really work, some other missing links first need addressing.

Andrew Poole

Librarian, Melton Mowbray College

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