Sen. Jack Reed Visits Providence Public Library to “Check Out” Progress on Workforce Services for Job Seekers & Adult Education Programs

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island public libraries have been playing a key role in helping job seekers with employment services and adult education classes.  Thanks to U.S. Senator Jack Reed, they are receiving federal funds to support and expand these offerings.

Today, Senator Reed visited the Providence Public Library with officials from the Office of Library and Information Services (OLIS) and met with librarians, adult education teachers and students, and library staff to get a firsthand look at the Providence Public Library’s “Adult Lifelong Learning Access (ALLACCESS)” program to improve the literacy and workforce skills of adult library patrons.  ALLACCESS, which is being jointly administered in partnership with the Cranston Public Library, was made possible by a nearly $500,000 federal grant that Senator Reed helped secure.

Senator Reed authored and successfully passed the bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, which annually provides needed federal assistance to museums and libraries across the country.   Reed’s law includes state formula funding and competitive grants, administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which help libraries meet community needs, better utilize technology to provide enhanced services, and reach underserved populations.  Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, annually champions funding for these federal library programs.

“During these challenging economic times, our public libraries have stepped up in a big way.  They serve as a key access point for people looking to increase their literacy and computer skills and find gainful employment.  I am proud to support the Providence Public Library’s efforts in concert with Cranston Public Library.  These libraries are doing a great job connecting job seekers with the tools and training they need, helping them navigate the work world, and advancing lifelong learning and civic engagement,” said Senator Reed.

“Libraries excel at connecting people with the resources and tools they need to accomplish their goals, whether it’s developing skills for employment or learning English. With grants from the IMLS and the Office of Library and Information Services, libraries like the Providence Public Library and the Cranston Public Library are developing innovative programs like ALLACCESS.  This project brings together the adult education community and workforce programs in a welcoming place that's a natural catalyst for learning. We're grateful to Senator Reed for making projects like this possible through his work in Washington,” said Karen Mellor, acting Chief of the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services.

“We are incredibly fortunate for Senator Reed’s continued strong commitment to libraries and the programs and services we provide.  The funding that we receive from the IMLS is so critical to our success in assisting today’s adult learners.  It allows us to experiment, develop and build new programs and initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere.  This is something that we have done with distinction in Providence and Rhode Island – working with our state library officials and our Rhode Island public library partners -- since the inception of the RIFLI program 16 years ago, and which we will continue to do,” said Jack Martin, Director of Providence Public Library.

“Rhode Island is fortunate to have someone like Senator Reed who has the vision to recognize the important roles libraries can play in terms of education, literacy and workforce development. He has been a tireless advocate for libraries in Congress. These projects show the impact that libraries can have on people's lives, whether it is helping them learn a new skill, become fluent in a new language or become digitally literate in the effort to gain employment. The Cranston Public Library is proud to be working with Jack Martin and the new leadership at the Providence Public Library to bring these types of innovative programs to both our communities. This is a partnership that is only going to strengthen overtime as we evolve libraries to provide the needed 21st and 22nd century skills to the people of Rhode Island,” said Cranston Public Library Director Edward Garcia.

During the tour, Reed got a firsthand look at how the Providence Public Library is effectively using federal funds administered by the state through its Library of Rhode Island (LORI) grant program for computer classes in Providence and Cranston.  These classes, which are part of the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI), seek to expand the digital literacy skills of adults with limited English proficiency.

“Libraries are all about helping people broaden their horizons and connect with the community.  I was really impressed with the students and teachers in the language and technology classes who are seeking to improve their English and digital literacy skills, and ultimately open new doors to opportunities and personal growth,” said Reed.

Reed and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) teamed up to introduce the Workforce Investments through Local Libraries Act (WILL) Act.  Provisions of this bipartisan legislation were included in the recently enacted Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and will better integrate public libraries into state and local workforce investment strategies by recognizing public libraries as allowable “One-Stop” partners and authorizing new demonstration and pilot projects to establish employment resources in public libraries.

Earlier this week, Senator Reed announced another IMLS grant of over $475,000 in federal funds for the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) Graduate School of Library and Information Studies to launch a multi-year project that will use technology, film, and digital media to creatively engage children, families, educators, and librarians to advance digital and media literacy competencies.