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ConnectED Library Challenge: Answering the Call

ALA President Sari Feldman discusses the ConnectED initiative with Felton Thomas, Jr, director of Cleveland Public Library (CPL), who also attended the summit. Thomas has been elected the 2016-2017 president of the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of ALA.
ALA President Sari Feldman discussed the ConnectED initiative with Felton Thomas, Jr., director of the Cleveland Public Library (CPL) and president-elect of the Public Library Association (PLA), a division of ALA.

Yesterday library executives, mayors, county executives and school superintendents met with White House officials in Washington, D.C. to discuss their participation in the ConnectED Library Challenge designed to get a library card in every student’s hand. The national initiative is gaining momentum with approximately 60 cities and counties currently participating, 50 of which were represented at the convening. The White House and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) worked with the American Library Association and the Urban Libraries Council to develop the program, one where each participating jurisdiction must have “buy in” from their local government, the school superintendent and the local public library system to support providing a public library card to students. It leverages the ability of libraries to transform the learning experience for students of all ages, not only sparking a love for reading, but offering ready access to computers to gain basic online research skills and digital literacy as well as a place to create and innovate.

ALA President Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, commented:

I know from my experience that when you link the school library, the school and the public library, that collaboration gives every student access to a rich collection of resources that improves their education.

Sari Feldman facilitating a discussion during the ConnectED White House summit.
Sari Feldman co-facilitated a discussion during the ConnectED White House summit.

An important factor of this initiative is that each jurisdiction is able to decide how best to provide this library access. Two examples of this are:

  • In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC, they have created ONE Access, a program that uses students’ school identification numbers to access public library materials instead of a separate library card. Of the 147,000 students in their county, 100,000 have accessed Library services through this new program.
  • In Washington, D.C. they have the D.C. One Card that provides access to District government facilities and programs, including public schools, recreation centers, libraries and the Metro. In an effort to increase usage, many areas including D.C., have chosen to eliminate fines for the participating students.
White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith welcomes delegates to the ConnectED summit.
White House Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith welcomes delegates to the ConnectED summit.

Some of the communities participating in this program are: Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Clinton Macomb, Columbus, Cuyahoga, D.C., Denver, Hartford, Hennepin County, Howard County, Indianapolis, Madison, Milwaukee, New Haven, Oakland, Pierce County, Pima, Pocatello, Pueblo City, Ramsey County, Columbia, Rochester Hills, Rochester, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Skokie, and St. Louis.

If you were not able to participate in the live event, the morning session is available on YouTube.

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Jessica McGilvray

Jessica McGilvray is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.

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