Advocacy, Older Students

Know your history.

Libraries and Adult Education take its roots from a realization and movement in the 1920s that public libraries should focus a good deal of attention on educating patrons.  An American Library Association (ALA) study was conducted in Chicago, which determined not only was there a need, but there was growing evidence that patrons were utilizing the library for these endeavors regardless, thus, the ALA vowed to meet the demand on three main fronts:  1) by providing study materials, 2) by raising awareness about resources available in the community, and 3) by providing outside opportunities to patrons.  

It was also in the 1920s that brought the first legislation mandating adult education and the Bureau of Adult Education (in California) was formed primarily for the purposes of English language instruction and assimilation as part of an expansion of the “Americanization” program.    

Today libraries continue to engage adults (of course, children and teens as well) in the learning process by offering information, classes, and exposure to new technology.  Adult education strives for the same things with a focus on job training.  Where do these two institutions with a similar purpose converge and how have they influenced each other since their inception?  Just a few years ago, the Los Angeles Public Library began offering online high school diploma courses in addition to their adult literacy tutoring programs.  Historically this was the realm of the public adult schools, to cater efforts for undereducated adults preparing them for an adult high school diploma.  Each system fortifies the other, and if working in partnership would benefit patrons exponentially.  It seems that they are in some ways competing.  I argue that public libraries should partner with adult schools the way that they have partnered with K-12, to collaborate on special projects and be a referral service to each other, as was vowed long ago.  These partnerships would ultimately be strengthened by the existence of an adult school library program to liaise between the adult school and the public library.


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