Libraries fill any number of different roles, from information repositories to formal training centers to community gathering places. Instructional design principles are vital in all of these roles. Libraries tend to focus on the instructional design of formal learning opportunities, like drop-in workshops and expert lectures. However, the library space is also a prime location for informal learning to occur. As librarians and instructional designers, we need to make sure that we’re fostering informal learning just as much as formal learning.

What is informal learning, and how is it different from formal learning? According to Jay Cross, “Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route. The rider can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or go to the bathroom.” Informal learning is spontaneous and natural, as opposed to the curriculum-based structure of formal learning. (Source: Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance)

Over the next several weeks, LibraryIDT will focus on the role of informal learning in libraries. We’ll look at each of the six factors of informal learning (nature of outcomes, nature of experience, origin, role of learner, role of instructor, and role of instructional designer) in the context of libraries fostering informal learning. Stay tuned!