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Providence Public Library Recipient of Federal National Leadership Grant through Institute of Museum and Library Services

April 19, 2018

Providence Public Library, in partnership with Chicago Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, and World Education, Inc., will receive a new $553,649 federal grant to test and disseminate innovative adult education and workforce development library practices. 

PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island public libraries have been playing a key role in helping job seekers with employment services and adult education classes.  Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) announced a new $1.2 million commitment to help Providence Public Library and partner organizations support and expand these offerings.

Providence Public Library, in partnership with Chicago Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, and World Education, Inc., will receive a new $553,649 federal grant to test and disseminate innovative adult education and workforce development library practices.  The project will build upon and expand programs and practices already in place at the three partner libraries (Learning Lounges; Mobile Learning; and Learning Circles).  The three partners and six selected pilot libraries will implement one or two new approaches into their system to study how these practices can be implemented and combined in different library settings.  The federal funding will be matched by $678,870 in matching funds by partner organizations.

The competitive National Leadership Grant is administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Senator Reed authored and successfully passed the bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act, which annually provides needed federal assistance to museums and libraries across the country.   Reed’s law includes state formula funding and competitive IMLS grants to help libraries nationwide meet community needs, better utilize technology to provide enhanced services, and reach underserved populations.  Reed successfully updated the law in 2010 to reflect and support the education and workforce development role libraries have been playing, including by enhancing the ability of IMLS to award grants like this one to Providence Public Library.

Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, also annually champions funding for these federal library programs.  Through his efforts, IMLS library funding received a nearly $6 million boost in the recently enacted 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act.

“Our public libraries are 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 their partners.  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.  “This grant will help take successful local workforce development and adult education programs at libraries and share them in more communities.  It’s a great collaboration that will ultimately pay off for job seekers and employers alike.”

“We are fortunate to have Senator Reed as an interminable champion of public libraries, education and workforce development for our country,” said PPL’s Education Director Karisa Tashjian.  “PPL is honored to convene such a dedicated and innovative group of partners with the shared goal of providing adults with opportunities to improve their skills.  We are eager to share our successes and learn best practices from others across the country to better serve our communities.  Public libraries are a critical component of the education and workforce development system and we welcome our community’s input and support to inform our efforts.”

Under this new federal grant, Providence Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, and World Education, Inc., will partner on a project called “Propagating Promising Practices for Literacy and Workforce Development at Libraries.”  A team of project advisors from the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services; Maine State Library; American Library Association (ALA); and Peer2Peer University will provide expertise and expand the project’s reach and impact.

The goal of this project is to increase the skills of adults by capturing, disseminating, and growing innovative education and workforce development practices in public libraries across the U.S.; positioning public libraries as effective and welcoming community hubs for lifelong learning, digital inclusion, and economic empowerment.

The project builds upon and expands three practices already in place at the partner libraries:

Learning Lounges, a popular program at the Providence Public Library that serves as a place for adults to achieve their learning goals in an informal teacher and technology-assisted environment.  Job seekers may visit the Learning Lounge to get help with online job searches and applications, resume and cover letter writing, reading, writing and math skills, English language skills, and basic computer skills.

Mobile Learning Los Angeles Public Library uses Cell-Ed, a digital learning tool with mobile-ready technology that does not require internet access.  Cell-Ed is a mobile bilingual English-Spanish learning service that delivers 3-minute lessons to your mobile phone.  Courses are available 24/7 and live coaches are available to help guide learners through the registration process and courses.  Los Angeles Public Library is participating in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition that is rolling out mobile learning applications to as large an audience as possible in direct response to adult literacy and language needs.

Learning Circles, an innovative collaboration between the Chicago Public Library and

Peer 2 Peer University, that holds lightly-facilitated study groups for learners who want to take online courses together, in-person. Learning Circles are peer supported, facilitated by non-content experts, hosted in publicly accessible spaces, designed to be taken with few prerequisites, and free for learners.

By the end of the grant period, Providence Public Library will implement all three practices, Los Angeles Public Library and Chicago Library will implement two, and six libraries to be recruited — “pilot libraries” — will implement one new practice over a three year period.

The three innovator libraries’ practices will serve as “can do” examples and will be made accessible to other libraries through an interactive toolkit and coaching.

The project is geared toward helping adults with low skills gain expanded access to flexible, high-quality, technology-enabled learning opportunities and increase their skills and literacy to help meet education and workforce goals.  Public libraries will gain increased capacity to support learning and workforce development for adults with low skills and be well-positioned as a major system for education and workforce development.  Local communities will gain residents with increased skills that enable stronger community engagement, productivity and self-sufficiency, and hubs for education and workforce development.

Senator Reed has teamed up with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in introducing the bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act.  This critical bill renews and builds on the $240 million annual commitment to the federal museum and library programs administered by IMLS, including further strengthening the focus on areas such as education and workforce development.