A computer class at Providence Public Library

Urban Libraries Council (ULC) Recognizes PPL for Library Innovation

September 7, 2018

PPL’s Rhode Coders and Data Navigators Technology Careers Training Programs Demonstrates the irreplaceability of the library as a Community Institution

BALTIMORE, MD – The Urban Libraries Council recently announced Providence Public Library (PPL) as an Innovations Initiative Honorable Mention during the 2018 ULC Annual Forum Awards Ceremony on September 6 in Baltimore. A panel of expert judges selected PPL’s Rhode Coders and Data Navigators programs as an Honorable Mention from 220 submissions in 10 categories that demonstrate the value and impact of public library service. PPL received recognition in the category of Workforce and Economic Development.

The 2018 Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions were announced during a special Innovations Celebration on September 6 in Baltimore. Award winners were recognized for their innovative programs, services and operating practices. ULC’s 2018 Top Innovators and Honorable Mentions can be viewed at UrbanLibraries.org.

“Today’s public libraries are bold and pioneering community leaders that play many roles, from educational institutions to technology centers and entrepreneurial hubs,” said Urban Libraries Council President and CEO Susan Benton. “I congratulate Providence Public Library for illustrating a persistent commitment to realizing a groundbreaking initiative that has transformed their community.

Providence Public Library (PPL) helps adults and teens discover new technology skills through its Rhode Coders and Data Navigators programs. These highly accessible, free learning opportunities are offered in a welcoming, supportive and enjoyable environment using a cohort model and “gamified” instruction. Students present their final projects to guests from the tech industry and the community. Among 49 students who completed a post-enrollment survey, 10 had gone on to coding boot camp, three were taking college computer courses and seven were working in the software field. Other participants have earned digital badges and high school credit, improved performance in their current jobs or started new careers.

“The impact of our Rhode Coders and Data Navigators workforce development programs has been tremendous. Not only are we outfitting teens and adults with valuable 21st-century skills, we are also helping them get jobs and high school credit for what they’ve learned in our courses. Connecting a learner’s trajectory from a public library course to actual employment is exactly the equation we’ve been trying to achieve with our efforts,” said Jack Martin, PPL Executive Director.

Since the implementation of its THINK AGAIN Strategic plan in 2014, PPL has increased its focus on economic advancement and workforce development programs and support.  PPL provides technology training to promote job readiness (e.g., Microsoft Office, web/software development, makerspace equipment such as 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters), workforce development initiatives for at-risk teens including paid summer employment opportunities, high school completion programs, assistance with job search/information and online job applications including the services of a Career Coach, English Language Learner and U.S. Citizenship preparation classes, and other innovative adult literacy services such as Learning Lounges. PPL currently receives two federal workforce development grants, one targeted to adults and another targeted to teens. PPL also offers tax and legal workshops targeted to small businesses.

Many of PPL’s educational and workforce development programs are at capacity with waiting lists given the limitations of PPL’s existing facility.  Through the planned $25 million renovation of the physical space underway now, PPL hopes to serve double the number of people or nearly 300,000 by 2020, including doubling its reach through economic advancement, workforce development, and educational programs.  PPL collaborates with more than 50 partners annually; the renovated space will better serve these community organizations and foster even more collaborative partnerships to better serve the Rhode Island community.

About PPL

PPL is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1875, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own PPL Foundation.  PPL provides services and resources to more than 152,000 visitors annually.  The Library also serves as the Statewide Reference Resource Center holding unique collections and resources.

About Urban Libraries Council

Urban Libraries Council (ULC), founded in 1971, is the voice for public libraries and the force that inspires them to evolve. ULC creates the tools, techniques, and ideas to make ongoing improvements and upgrades in services and technology. ULC also speaks loudly and clearly about the value public libraries bring to communities, and secures funding for research that results in the development of new programs and services. And by serving as a forum for library leadership, ULC produces innovative ideas and best practices that ensure community impact.