Career Online High School Going Strong in NJ, Part II

4 min read

 By Anne Nagrant

On October 6, 2014, the New Jersey State Library (NJSL) launched Career Online High School (COHS), at six libraries. Check out Part I to learn how they got started and promoted COHS. Now, I’ll dive further into the program and awarding diplomas.

Selecting Students
It is in everyone’s best interest for the library to find and select students who are most likely to reach their goal of graduating from COHS. Gale provides training to library staff on program requirements and student interview techniques, but ultimately the choice is in the hands of library staff.


“The criteria we use at the Elizabeth Public Library to select students is how they project their desire to improve their lives and their level of commitment to completing the program. We also factor in their availability to dedicate their time to the courses, and access to computers,” José Ruiz-Alvarez stated.


Successful students have:

  • Time to devote to coursework—optimally 8-10 hours per week
  • Access to the internet on a computer, at home or at the library
  • Support from their friends or family, in addition to support from library staff and an assigned academic coach

The six New Jersey libraries select students through this process:

  1. Potential student completes online self-assessment on the library’s COHS website
  2. Library contacts the student and has a phone interview
  3. Qualified students are given access to a prerequisite course
  4. Library conducts a face-to-face interview with students who pass the prerequisite
  5. Library selects qualified candidates to proceed
  6. Selected students sign a commitment pledge and enroll as official COHS students


The Executive Director of Trenton Free Public Library, Kimberly Matthews, reiterates, “We are looking for students who successfully complete their prerequisite in addition to demonstrating a sincere commitment to the program. We are looking for individuals we believe are serious and willing to put in the effort necessary to successfully complete the program.”

Lisa Thornton, Library Assistant at Scotch Plains Public Library found that “having a [library] team working together to examine the self-assessments and promptly respond was important. By maintaining regular communication with each other and maintaining organized data, moving applicants through the various stages of the program went smoothly.”


There are currently over 70 active COHS students from the six participating NJ libraries.

We are thrilled to announce that Camden County Library System has the first COHS graduate in New Jersey! Thanks to a lot of hard work plus high school transfer credits, Kirsten Hoy completed the program in January 2015. A mother of two, Kirsten told the library that she “put four to five hours a day into my course work.” She intends to enroll at Camden County College after earning her high school diploma.

Final Words
Planning COHS at the state level in New Jersey, and then launching and implementing the program at six separate libraries was exciting. Each of the six libraries has a unique community, different level of staffing, and separate challenges. I love knowing that my work supports libraries to help patrons achieve educational and career success. The entire Customer Care team at Gale is committed to providing white-glove service to public libraries who offer COHS to their community members.


“Because of the many informational webinars [with NJSL and Gale] we attended prior to the launch, our staff felt well-prepared to manage each stage of the program. As the program progressed, Gale remained in contact with updates. Most importantly, any time our staff encountered a problem or a question we could not answer, we received a prompt response from our Customer Care Consultants.”

– Lisa Thornton, Scotch Plains Public Library



To learn more about Career Online High School, visit:

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About the Author

Anne Nagrant is a Customer Care Consultant who serves public libraries throughout the US and Canada. She came to Gale in 2012 after a fun career in historical museums. She has a BA in anthropology and history from the University of Michigan. Anne is invigorated by promoting education via non-traditional paths.


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