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Developing partnerships to deliver Learning programs: the Moonee Valley experience.

Moonee Valley City Council Library and Learning provides a flexible, contemporary service appropriate to the changing needs of residents. With the development of the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre, and the library and learning strategy 2012-16, this provided opportunities for developing partnerships with local training providers to deliver learning programs to meet the needs of the community. This collaboration has delivered formal and informal programs to the community that would not have been possible using existing financial and human resources. Edited version of a paper presented at the conference 'Learning for all: public libraries in Australia and New Zealand Melbourne 13-14 September 2012'.


Since the opening of the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre in September 2010, Moonee Valley city council, through its library and learning department, has developed strategic partnerships to enable the delivery of services and programs to the community. This has resulted in a significant increase in the variety and scope of informal programs and formal courses that meet community needs. Further to this, the development of a library and learning strategy in 2011 provided a clear vision and focus for the delivery of library services and learning programs across the next four years.

This paper focuses specifically on the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre approach; case studies of the partnerships that have been developed to date and the outcomes; and outline council's aims for extending this approach across the municipality.


The city of Moonee Valley is a mostly residential area covering 43 square kilometres, located between 4 and 13 kilometres from Melbourne's CBD. Around 114,500 residents or 46,000 households call Moonee Valley home. The community is culturally and linguistically diverse, with more than a quarter of the population born overseas.

Moonee Valley City Council has libraries in Ascot Vale, Avondale Heights (Library and Learning Centre), Flemington, Moonee Ponds (Sam Merrifield Library) and Niddrie. Moonee Valley libraries provide a return on investment of $4.29 for every dollar invested, compared with the Victorian average of $3.56. (1) Rfid will be introduced across the library service in 2012, providing further operating efficiencies and benefits to library users. There are currently 58,681 library members, which equates to more than half the population of the municipality. Visits average 2,500 a day, with 746,000 visits in 2011/12, and 1.1 million items a year are borrowed. As is the case for most libraries, the increasing demand for technology and online services is evident with over 85,000 computer bookings across the branches in 2011/12 (an increase of 12% from the previous year), and 24,000 user logins to wireless internet during the same period (an increase of 56% from the previous year).

In 2009, a corporate restructure led to the library services department being renamed library and learning, which provided the impetus to move from what was a more traditional library service approach to a far greater community learning focus. The library and learning department, within the citizens services and information management directorate, delivers a range of services to support the needs of the community for learning, information and recreation.

Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre The Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre provided the opportunity to reconsider the learning role that libraries play within Moonee Valley. In 2008 a memorandum of understanding between Skills Victoria (Diird) and Moonee Valley Council was executed, which included the construction of a new Avondale Heights Community Learning Centre (Ahcl) with council to manage the facility. (2) In 2009 council adopted the Avondale Heights Community Learning Centre vision and strategic use framework to guide the development of the centre. It was around this time that the lease arrangements for Milleara Library (located in East Keilor) expired and a commercial rent proposed (replacing existing peppercorn rental arrangements). Council resolved to move Milleara Library to the community learning centre. In September 2010, the renamed Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre opened to the public.

Main elements of council's vision for the centre included

* developing a core set of uses based around lifelong learning, skills development and community engagement

* fostering key partnerships which enable the facility to grow and evolve

* being responsive to community needs

* contributing to the community's social, cultural and economic fabric. (3)

This provided the vision to drive the development of informal and formal training programs, a priority given the involvement of Skills Victoria in the project. It also presented a significant change in direction for the library service, from what was previously a shop front library to a facility focused on learning, engagement and partnerships. A major outcome of this was a new range of tasks for staff in providing learning centre support and program delivery, but also an impetus to bring to life the vision for the learning centre.

In June 2012 council adopted the Avondale Heights Community Precinct vision and master plan. This provides a vision for further development of the Avondale Heights site, to create a community hub with a neighbourhood focus, fostering local connections and consolidating and enhancing the existing cluster of community facilities and services. This will include the library and learning centre as the cornerstone use of the precinct, and see further development including a library extension, early years centre, multipurpose community facility, piazza and outdoor youth space. (4)

Library and learning strategy

A key strategic action for council in 2011/12 was to develop a strategy to guide the delivery and development of library and learning services for the next four years. Adopted on 20 December 2011, the library and learning strategy 2012-16 provides a comprehensive framework to guide the development of services. The strategy describes a vision for Moonee Valley Libraries as

* visibly supporting and adding value to the work of council

* providing a flexible, contemporary service, appropriate to the changing needs of Moonee Valley residents

* making a positive contribution to the advancement of public libraries. (5)

The strategy sets out a framework for building the library service around five themes: access, connection, leisure, information, and learning.


* Programs--our program planning will recognise the role of libraries in lifelong, informal learning, supporting formal education and providing a pathway to qualifications and employment. Programs will be designed to attract diverse audiences, including youth, new residents, people with English as a second language, those who might otherwise feel socially isolated.

* Partners--we will take an active approach to partnerships both within council and with external organisations. Further partnerships will be developed across council and with not for profit and community groups, to deliver programs, events and activities, introducing new groups to the library service. Sponsorships will also be pursued as a way of achieving library and learning objectives.


* Lifelong informal learning--from early childhood baby rhyme time sessions and preschool storytimes, through the premier's reading challenge, homework online help, school holiday programs and book groups, we will support people's informal learning by providing facilities, resources, activities and expert guidance.

* Training hubs--we will run a range of training sessions and we will partner with organisations to run courses both in libraries and online for library users.

* Pathway to formal learning--we will look at creative ways of helping people move from informal learning into formal learning, where this would be of interest and benefit to the individual. (6)

It is widely recognised that libraries play an important role in lifelong learning, as a place for people to utilise and learn technology, a community space to meet friends, and access to resources for recreation and information. This strategy is designed to ensure Moonee Valley Libraries continue to remain relevant and contemporary to the needs of residents well into the future. It was developed in consultation with residents and based on the outcomes of workshops and focus groups, and provides clear direction for the next four years.

Analysing community demographics

To deliver on the vision for the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre, it was important to develop services, programs and uses of the centre that met community needs. The Vision and strategic use framework provided a clear demographic profile and analysis of important issues, needs and opportunities. This formed the basis for development of services and programs. The demographic profile of Avondale Heights is quite unique within Moonee Valley, with

* a population of 11,079, with the second largest proportion of Moonee Valley's 55-64 year olds, (7) and around 27 per cent of the population over 60 years of age (8)

* the largest number (4617) and proportion (42%) of residents born overseas, and a lower proportion of residents who speak English at home

* households in Avondale Heights had the second lowest rate of internet connection at home in Moonee Valley (43% of households did not have an internet connection, at the time of the 2006 census)

* 2000 young people (13-25yrs) living in Avondale Heights, representing just over one in ten of all young people living in Moonee Valley. (9)

Within the first months of operation there was strong community interest in program availability, although the initial focus had been on developing training room hire agreements with learning providers. Many of these uses were very worthwhile but aimed at specific audiences and not necessarily publicly available programs, for example

* social skills program for young people with disabilities

* University of the Third Age (U3A) programs for over 50s

* private education providers--targeted certificate level courses often delivered to participants from outside the municipality.

Whilst this approach delivered good social outcomes and met the core aims of the centre in relation to the objectives set by Skills Victoria, it did not necessarily meet community need and expectation for publicly accessible programs.

Through comment and discussion with library members and visitors, anecdotal evidence was gathered which reinforced the community demographics analysis and enabled us to target needs more specifically with priorities being

* expanding the range and frequency of computer classes delivered

* delivering more intensive courses in the use of computers--a one off two hour session was not sufficient to develop adequate skills within the community

* assisting residents to learn English and practise their English conversation skills

* engaging with youth.

Library staff were already delivering a range of two hour classes on topics such as basic computer skills, internet and email, and changes were made to increase the frequency and availability of these, as well as developing other classes such as Facebook and Skype. However there were limitations within staffing capacity to deliver more classes, and existing staff did not necessarily have the right skill base to deliver what was required, for example, an English conversation skills class. It became clear that to deliver these types of programs an external provider would be more suitable.

Developing partnerships for lifelong learning

With a clearly identified community need based on evidence and an understanding of program requirements, the next step was to identify potential training providers who had experience in delivering education to the community.

Questions asked included

* who is already delivering something similar?

* what is in it for them? For example, for some training providers it is providing a location and a guaranteed market (they can access government funding to deliver the program), or it might be creating greater awareness of the learning provider within the community.

* library staff delivery versus external providers--do you have the skills/capacity within own staff to meet community requirements?

* what will be the responsibilities of partners and the library?

The purpose of the first learning partnership developed at Avondale Heights was to deliver an English conversation skills class. The library service already had a well developed partnership at the Flemington Library with Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre (FSNLC), a local provider of accredited and pre accredited courses who have been providing education and social support programs to the community for over 30 years. (10) FSNLC had partnered with Flemington Library to deliver learning programs using a library training room for around 20 years, resulting in a range of benefits including an upgrade of the computer training room. The partnership had mainly involved the library providing access to the training room facilities, and FSNLC utilising the space to deliver courses of its own choosing.

Initially, it was hard to know what type of class might be required--did it need to be an informal English conversation skills class, or a certificate level course? As a pilot program, we arranged for FSNLC to deliver a 2 hour English conversation class on our behalf, and to provide appointments for English language assessments, to gain access to other programs already being delivered by FSNLC. For the first 20 weeks, FSNLC was engaged to deliver these at an agreed cost, but through the success of the classes and further development of the relationship with FSNLC, we have now a partnership arrangement for FSNLC to deliver a weekly two hour English conversation skills class. As part of this agreement the library provides the room and centre support, and through inkind contribution FSNLC provides the tutor to facilitate the class. This has proven to be a sustainable model that provides benefits to both partners and to the community.

Developing partnerships for formal learning

At around the same time, Kangan Institute, a Tafe provider in Melbourne's north west approached council to investigate the potential for partnering. Kangan's approach was to provide education and services that

* help enterprises grow

* communities prosper

* individuals reach their full potential. (11)

This provided an excellent vehicle for a collaborative approach between Kangan Institute and Moonee Valley City Council. The aim of the partnership was to
   benefit the Moonee Valley residents where they can
   attend their local library and learning centre to gain
   access to quality training in introductory computer
   skills. This will assist the library and learning centre
   in becoming a vibrant place of community focus. (12)

With a high percentage of the Avondale Heights population without internet access at home, and high demand for training in basic computer skills, we worked with Kangan to determine the best program to meet community needs. This resulted in the development of a semester long course, the certificate 1 in information technology, with a focus on operating a personal computer, word processing, and web browsing. A formal partnership agreement was developed by Kangan that clearly outlined the objectives, deliverables and responsibilities.

In this partnership the library was responsible for

* the venue and laptops at no charge

* managing the list of interested participants

* informing participants of training requirements, dates, and costs

* assisting trainers wherever possible to achieve a successful outcome.

Kangan was responsible for

* providing the trainer and any other resources such as presentations and handouts

* enrolment, payments and statement of attainments

* training and assessment in accordance with AQTF standards

* providing opportunities for participants to evaluate the program.

Costs were applicable for participants. For students eligible for a government funding place they needed to be upskilling, and a minimum fee was applicable for eligible students with a health care card. This met the needs of the majority of people who were interested in computer training. However for those not eligible the costs were considerably higher.

Following a publicity campaign, an information session was held with over 30 people, and the course commenced in July 2011 with 16 participants. The course structure was a three hour weekly session from July to November. Feedback was extremely positive from those involved, and the course provided the regular weekly interaction required to develop both skills and confidence for those participating. With a regular weekly cohort, strong social connections were developed between those completing the course, and these relationships have continued outside of the library --a true reflection of its role in providing social connectivity. The partnership has continued with a certificate 1 in information digital media Technology which commenced in July 2012.

With an ongoing need in the community for additional computer skills classes, in late 2011 a further partnership with Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre resulted in the launch of a computer basics for beginners course. This weekly course provided a hands on introduction to computers and how to search and find information on the net, send and receive emails, as well as write and save documents. FSNLC conducts the course as a foundation skills course through the Certificates in general education for adults (CGEA), which enables it to access government funding to conduct the course. The course prepares students for pathways to further study and employment options, and provides a pathway into more formal learning. It also provided greater accessibility for the community at a reasonable price--a $50 fee for the course.

Interest in the computer basics for beginners course was overwhelming, and resulted in two courses in September 2011 running for 10 weeks, with weekly two and a half hour sessions. In 2012 increased interest in this course resulted in 4 weekly courses being offered in the first half of the year, and another four in the second half of 2012.

Outcomes of partnerships for learning
   Partnerships present libraries with new tools to bring
   the most effective services to their users at the most
   affordable costs. (13)

The partnerships between council and learning partners enabled the delivery of a range of programs that met recognised needs in the community, through inkind contributions without additional financial or human resourcing implications. For the 2011/12 financial year, the partnerships previously outlined have resulted in the following measurable programs at Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre

* English conversation skills class--42 weekly sessions (2 hours), and 336 attendances

* certificate 1 in information technology--20 weekly sessions (3 hours), 320 attendances computer basics for beginners--6 courses, 113 weekly sessions (2.5 hours each), 1017 attendances.

That is a total of

* 175 program sessions

* 565 contact hours.

To put this into context, if council was to fund and resource the delivery of those programs, the annual cost for student contact hours would be close to $34,000--and a true cost closer to twice that of $68,000 to allow for course development time. (14)

Since opening in 2010, the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre has become a social and cultural hub for the local community. Over two thousand people attended the first birthday celebration, which is evidence of the important role that the centre is playing in connecting the community.
   The library and learning centre is the social and
   cultural hub of the Avondale Heights community.
   Community feedback (15)

The development of strategic partnerships has been crucial to the success of the centre, and their relevance has been reinforced by further community analysis. Recently a study undertaken by council's community development department investigated the equitable provision and future needs for social inclusion and learning activities for Moonee Valley. (16) This identified an ongoing and increasing need for community development, social inclusion and learning programs throughout Moonee Valley, including

* basic computer and internet classes/provision of internet access

* informal learning and social inclusion programs for growing population and older residents

* pathways to employment such as certificate courses and English language. (17)

The partnerships in place at Avondale Heights are clearly delivering on these priorities by providing nationally recognised and AQTF compliant training and achieving key activities within the library and learning strategy relating to

* lifelong learning

* training hubs

* pathways to formal learning.

Partnerships to foster community life

Council has a proactive approach to developing partnerships for the benefit of the community. A corporate partnership that has greatly contributed to the development of facilities and services at Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre has been with the East Keilor Community Bank Branch of the Bendigo Bank. A three year sponsorship agreement with the bank resulted in the development of the public internet room, which enabled the library to provide access to 20 computers. The bank has a strong community focus, and in partnership with the library has sponsored events such as the biggest morning tea, and the Avondale Heights first birthday celebrations.

To celebrate the first birthday, a community fun day was held on Saturday 8 October. The day was an overwhelming success--the largest event ever held at a Moonee Valley library. People enjoyed children's entertainment, a sausage sizzle and an open day expo featuring training providers. Popular children's author Andy Griffiths signed copies of his new book. It gave visitors a chance to have fun and find out more about the services and programs offered by the centre. The celebrations provided an opportunity to engage more with the community and further develop partnerships. Financial and inkind sponsorship of $5,000 was achieved, through partners including the East Keilor Community Bank Branch of the Bendigo Bank, Rotary, Victoria University, Brad Teal Real Estate Agents, Customised Training and Pollard Institute. The relationships developed through this event have had ongoing benefits.

Moonee Valley Libraries: visible, valued, flexible, contemporary

The next 12 months are an exciting time for Moonee Valley Library and Learning. Construction has commenced on an extension to the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre. This will provide space for further programming for learning and recreation, with a particular focus for partnering with schools to deliver programs to youth at risk, including life skills support and a supported pathway to other training and/or employment opportunities for those who would transition out of school. This type of program is inspired by the Finding MY Place program delivered in Western Australian public libraries. (18) This will provide further opportunities for partnering with local schools, tertiary education providers and council's youth services team to develop programs for youth, and opportunities for engaging with a different segment of the community that the library and learning centre may not normally service. It also provides the opportunity for continuous improvement in service and program delivery. The library extension forms stage one of the recently adopted Avondale Heights Community Precinct vision and master plan. The master plan provides a vision for further development of the Avondale Heights site, to create a community hub with a neighbourhood focus, fostering local connections and consolidating and enhancing the existing cluster of community facilities and services. This will include the Library and Learning Centre as the cornerstone use of the precinct, and see further development including a library extension, early years centre, multipurpose community facility, piazza and outdoor youth space. (19)

In June 2012 council adopted the Towards a learning community: Moonee Valley learning community framework to establish Moonee Valley's learning community and the learning community board. One of the themes of the framework is to 'Support and enhance high quality, accessible education and learning opportunities'. (20) A learning community forum is being held in September 2012, and the library and learning department will be involved in this community wide approach to lifelong learning.

Over coming months we will be improving the way the library provides services through the introduction of radio frequency identification (rfid) technology. This will allow staff to deliver enhanced customer and information services to the community.

An annual service plan is in place to ensure the library and learning department meets the actions set out in the library and learning strategy. Actions for 2012/13 include

* conducting a community needs analysis to identify future needs for planning and delivering learning programs

* developing a community engagement charter for library and learning

* conducting a workforce review taking into account changing roles and responsibilities, the need for professional development and for the introduction of new and different skills

* refining the partnership framework, to have a library service wide approach.

A principal aim is to integrate the library and learning model developed at Avondale Heights across the municipality to expand the range of learning programs and partnerships available at all library locations.


1 Understand your community--base programs on evidence, not just what you think the community needs.

2 Identify potential partners early--define what organisations could be involved and their strengths from a programming context, and start making linkages.

3 Be clear about what you want to achieve define community needs and have a clear understanding of the program requirements before commencing discussions with partners. This will ensure you end up with a program that meets community needs, rather than a partner conducting a program that best suits them.

4 Pilot new ideas--do not be afraid to jump in and try something different. It was only by developing a relationship and piloting a program that gave our partners the opportunity to see the potential for their involvement.

5 Develop a partnership framework to define the principles, requirements, opportunities and benefits of partnering.


(1) as per Dollars, sense and public libraries calculation framework

(2) Avondale Heights Community Learning Centre vision and strategic use framework 2009

(3) ibid

(4) Avondale Heights Community Precinct vision and masterplan June 2012

(5) Library and learning strategy 2012-16--Libraries: visible, valued, flexible, contemporary Moonee Valley City Council 2011

(6) ibid

(7) 2006 census data in Avondale Heights Community Learning Centre vision and strategic use framework 2009

(8) Neighbourhood houses and community centres future needs study Capire Consulting Group, March 2012

(9) 2006 Census data in Avondale Heights Community Precinct vision and masterplan June 2012

(10) Farnham Street Neighbourhood Learning Centre

(11) Kangan Institute proposal for Training in certificate 1 in information technology, internal document

(12) ibid

(13) Wilding, T External partnerships and academic libraries Library management 23(4/5) 2002

(14) Based on $60 per hour of course delivery, plus the equivalent number of hours for course development

(15) Community feedback from consultation, Avondale Heights Community Precinct vision and masterplan, June 2012

(16) Neighbourhood houses and community centres future needs study Moonee Valley City Council report, Planning and Citizens Meeting 5 June 2012

(17) Neighbourhood houses and community centres future needs study Capire Consulting Group, March 2012

(18) Griggs, N Finding MY Place a Western Australian public library program with national potential for at risk youth, in Bundy, A ed 12 to 24s @ your public library in Australia and New Zealand Conference, Beenleigh Qld 11-12 June 2010 proceedings Adelaide, Auslib Press 2010 pp42-45; also published in Australasian public libraries and information services 23(3) September 2010 pp103-106

Editor's note: see also Uppal, M Finding MY Place: the Fairfield Library experience in Bundy, A ed Learning for all: public libraries in Australia and New Zealand conference proceedings Adelaide, Auslib Press 2012 pp99-103

(19) Avondale Heights community precinct vision and masterplan, June 2012

(20) Towards a learning community: Moonee Valley community learning framework Moonee Valley City Council 2012

Troy Watson Manager Library and Learning, Moonee Valley City Council Victoria

Troy Watson is manager Library and Learning, Moonee Valley city council and is responsible for the delivery of a comprehensive library service to all sections of the Moonee Valley community. He has 17 years experience in public, school and government libraries. Since commencing with Moonee Valley, he managed the development of a library and learning strategy and has implemented strategic partnerships to deliver learning programs at the Avondale Heights Library and Learning Centre. Previously he managed the library at the Australian Emergency Management Institute (Attorney-General's Department) and was responsible for developing national strategic partnerships through the Australasian libraries in the emergency sector (Alies) executive committee. Address: Moonee Valley City Council PO Box 126 Moonee Valley Vic 3039 email
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Title Annotation:Moonee Valley City, Melbourne, Australia
Author:Watson, Troy
Publication:Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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