Experiential learning

Experiential learning is one of the areas I am exploring its more unconventional forms via community volunteering projects in my work with students.

In the domain of library and information studies, it is hardly a new trend. Melville Dewey (Melville Louis Kossuth “Melvil” Dewey) praised its importance and role in educating future librarians.

Experiential learning usually takes place in controlled environments via placements. Common forms of practice-based learning have been identified as internships, placements, fieldwork, volunteering and community-based projects/service learning. Sometimes, the terms practice-based learning and experiential learning are used interchangeably but I prefer experiential learning because it emphasises the component of personal experience and involvement.

The use of experiential learning within community projects setting is an additional avenue rarely explored due to the difficulty of making it part of the regular curriculum.

Some examples from Qatar 


For two academic year, 2017-18 and 2018-19, small groups of students from the MA in LIS progamme at UCL Qatar worked on a project involving a local school with the aim to improve its library. Students used their initiative to apply what was taught in class (theory) and solve real problems in a school library in QatarInnovative unconditional experiential learning can create opportunities for students to develop skills and knowledge to deal with real problems in a library set up and generate workable solutions to resolve such problems. 

It was a pleasure to discuss their work and it attracted local attention being presented in a paper at the 4th Qatari Library and Information Association conference in 2019. This is a poster summarising the students’ experience. 


Children’s book

An assignment of a group of students in 2018 produced a poem about children visiting the National Library of Qatar. This was developed further by other students and graduates translating it in Arabic and working on the design to produce a novel book on the engagement of children with libraries in Qatar.

An example from Malta 

Comic books in the Library

One of my students back in 2013-14  was really passionate about the introduction of graphic novels in the public libraries – by that time they were not considered worthy to be part of the library collections. During his studies, he started by convincing the library management in the Central Public Library (CPL) in Floriana that such a collection would be a great way to attract more children to the library. Over time, the support in principle grew but then there was another obstacle – how to develop the collection. Now already a graduate of the programme, this young librarian organised a fundraising campaign which allowed to create the first collection with comic books. He also added plenty of events such as game sessions in the library, talks about the comic book culture and now this collection is one of the most popular ones in terms of use in the CPL.