Public Libraries Across the U.S. Find Reinvention and Value through Innovative Education Program

By Kristina Massari

Public libraries across the country are finding innovative ways to deliver value to their communities, including presenting high school diplomas to adult residents through Career Online High School, an accredited high school completion and career certificate program. Career Online High School is now available at more than a dozen libraries from coast to coast, with several launching this month, and has graduated its first library students.

“The idea that an adult can walk into their public library and eventually walk out a high school graduate with career training, not only positioned for a better job or career, but positioned to have a better life, is truly amazing,” said Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager for Gale. “Gale is delighted to be leading this effort as it speaks to what we’ve known all along, that libraries change lives.”

Today, there are nearly 40 million Americans without a high school diploma and there are limited options available for older students who are looking to return to school. Career Online High School is specifically designed to reengage adults into the education system and prepare them for entry into post-secondary career education or the workforce. Launched in the public library space in January 2014, Career Online High School is now available in several major urban centers – including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, New Orleans, Denver, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Chattanooga, several libraries throughout New Jersey, and other locations.

“We are proud that Sacramento Public Library was the second library in the country to offer this innovative program to our patrons, and prouder still to share what we’ve learned with other libraries,” said Rivkah Sass, Sacramento Public Library Director. “Libraries have always supported education, but this program fosters our ability to be on the leading edge of providing education.”

The value of Career Online High School can be measured by the fiscal contributions, including higher income and tax revenue generated by those with a high school diploma, local workforce development and more, as well as the emotional benefits students experience by completing their education.

“I’ve completed a part of my education that I’ve been missing. I knew I was capable of achieving this and it feels great knowing now what I have accomplished,” said Angie Velasquez, who earned her high school diploma through the Career Online High School program at Los Angeles Public Library. “As a college student I am no longer missing that gap, and the career training from COHS has been carried over into my work and that I know my employer appreciates!”

Libraries award scholarships for Career Online High School to qualified learners. Once enrolled, each student is paired with an Academic Coach, who offers ongoing guidance and encouragement, evaluates performance, and connects the learner with the resources needed to demonstrate mastery of the course material. Classes are supported by board-certified instructors and students have 24/7 access to the online learning platform. Coursework begins in one of eight high-growth, high-demand career fields before progressing to the core academic subjects. Many students are able to graduate in as few as 4 to 6 months by transferring in previously earned high school credits. Career certificate options span four of the six industries that can’t find workers fast enough, including food service, childcare and education, retail, and transportation, among others.

For more information on the economic impact of high school completion and the benefits of libraries, download the whitepaper and watch this video.

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