Libraries and the Value of Experiential Learning

From workshops to events, there's always something to explore and learn at your local library.

How do libraries give people the power to learn through action?

Experiential learning allows people to enhance their skills through hands-on lessons. Libraries are fantastic for readers but are equally crucial for lifelong learners of all ages. Here’s what you need to know about experiential learning and how libraries provide affordable education for all patrons.

What is Experiential Learning?

Experiential learning is the process of development through action. Initially proposed by psychologist David A. Kolb, the goal is to learn through experience. For example, visiting a museum and interacting with the location’s history. Kolb developed a four-step Experiential Learning System:

  1. Experiencing. The learner engages in an activity.
  2. Reflecting. The learner reflects on what happened and identifies their feelings during the activity.
  3. Thinking. The learner determines conclusions and theories that can tested.
  4. Acting. The learner implements what they’ve learned to receive feedback and restart the activity from the beginning.

Experiential activities nurture a natural learning environment that allows for development and improvement. Libraries are designed for experiential learning for all ages.


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Benefits of Experiential Learning

Experiential learning creates opportunities for people to step outside the box in a world dominated by technology, remote work, and office spaces. For example, schools have traditionally trained students to prepare for industrial-style work, but much of that has changed. Instead of sitting at desks, more teachers are letting students learn through activities.

For young people and adults, experiential learning allows you to grasp concepts faster. Creativity thrives under experiential learning, as does motivation. Through this method, mistakes become growth opportunities. The reflection aspect of experiential learning allows someone to understand abstract concepts and figure out what they could do differently next time.

Celebrating Mistakes

Experiential learning requires people to make mistakes. However, its sense of accomplishment also allows learners to learn from those errors and continue improving the more they try. Human beings are imperfect, so it’s essential to experience opportunities to celebrate failure. Participating in mistake-oriented learning nurtures wisdom, insight, and resilience.

Other valuable skills learned from mistakes are flexibility, innovation, and humility. In other words, experiential learning trains your brain to develop a growth mindset. For people learning something new, this prevents the temptation to give up. For life challenges, this helps people succeed when overcoming personal struggles.

Thankfully, librarians love helping people embrace growth, learning, and self-discovery.


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How Do Libraries Implement Experiential Learning?

Learning Spaces

Most public libraries provide specialized spaces for all age groups and needs. For example, certain library sections are devoted to children, teens, and young adults. These typically include a mix of age-appropriate literature alongside stimulating toys or play areas. Community rooms allow for group collaboration on various projects, whether they’re related to work or school. There’s almost always a computer lab for public use of wifi, printers, and copy machines. With these spaces, libraries aim to foster a motivating work environment.

Stimulating Storytime

More librarians are expanding their storytime programs to thoroughly engage young people, especially if they struggle to focus. While storytime is still devoted to reading out loud, it’s accompanied by music, dance, and free play. Storytimes have become sensory-friendly environments for children to move around while listening to a book. Many libraries also offer virtual storytimes to accommodate all families and their learning environments. By innovating storytime, children begin to learn through action from a young age.


In select library locations across the US, makerspaces are entire facility sections devoted to experiential learning. These spaces used by beginners and experts alike include unusual tools like 3D printers, recording studios, graphing calculators, and more! Some people bring their projects, such as sewing crafts, into makerspaces to improve their skills. Patrons can also check out tools featured in makerspaces for use at home. When people are given creative opportunities, they become interested in new, exciting hobbies.


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Unique Activities

Did you know that libraries provide free museum passes? Select locations allow patrons to check out these resources for free when many require an admission fee. Paying attention to your local library’s calendar may also open up opportunities to meet community authors or other educational opportunities. Some libraries host community gardens, the perfect chance for new or expert green thumbs to advance their planting skills. These are only a few of several experiential learning activities provided by libraries nationwide.

Free Classes

Experiential learning is relevant to all age groups; libraries make these resources accessible. For people who didn’t have the tools as adolescents, select library locations help adults obtain their high school diplomas. Some facilities also host fitness classes or topical lessons related to hobbies like gardening. One of the library’s most vital resources is free tutoring for school students. Some other learning opportunities that libraries frequently provide are career advice, tax assistance, and adult literacy programs.

Public libraries nurture experiential learning through free books, classes, and events. Explore EveryLibrary to learn more about how you can continue to support affordable education programs at libraries.



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