January 19, 2016

IMLS Press Contact
Giuliana Bullard

Communities across the U.S. Answer Call for a Library Card for Every Student

White House event advances collaborative initiatives of library, school and elected leaders

Washington, DC— Mayors, county executives, school superintendents, and library leaders from approximately 50 cities and counties are meeting in Washington, DC, today as part of a national initiative to connect students to public library system resources. These communities are among the 60 communities that have answered the call of President Obama’s ConnectED Library Challenge to put a library card in every student’s hand through partnership initiatives.

The "ConnectED Library Challenge: Answering the Call" convening is hosted by the White House with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. It is both a strategy session and a celebration of the community leaders who accepted the President's challenge last April.  Both the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and American Library Association (ALA) are contributing to this important initiative.

“By providing equal access to books, computers, and electronic resources, libraries play an essential role in addressing academic achievement gaps for children living in poverty. But there is more to be done. We know that first grade students who have library cards are more than twice as likely to visit libraries as other first graders,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew.  “The leaders who have responded to the ConnectED Library Challenge are making great strides to serve these children, and we are extremely grateful for their extraordinary efforts.”

“There can be no more important partnership than local elected officials joining with public school and public library leaders to ensure our nation's children have access to the universe of resources—books, technology and smart people—for a 21st century education,” said ULC President and CEO Susan Benton.   “The White House ConnectED Library Challenge showcases how kids benefit when leaders work together at the local level.”

 “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,” said ALA President Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.

Many jurisdictions that have taken the challenge have adopted creative and unique ways to break down barriers and provide library access. Some local governments have introduced cards that provide free or discounted access to multiple municipal services for young people -- the public library, recreation facilities, public transportation, and cultural facilities. Other partnerships are using student ID numbers to provide easy access to library resources.

  • The Clinton-Macomb Public Library in Michigan is teaming with the Chippewa Valley Schools and other schools systems so that every student in Clinton Township and Macomb Township will have access to library services by the end of the current school year. The library district is allowing students who do not already have a traditional card to use their school-issued identification numbers. All students will have access to online homework help, electronic books, magazines and encyclopedias, and a variety of other electronic resources.

  • Through their partnership, the Tucson Unified School District and the Pima County Public Library are working to connect students with technology resources, content, and learning strategies to improve reading comprehension and build 21st century skills. The library trained more than 200 school staff members, from superintendents and principals to learning support coordinators. There are now library advocates within each school site who are promoting the use of library technology resources among students and families. This effort—resulting in more than 3,700 new student cardholders—has established a framework of communication between local school sites and the public library.

  • Through a partnership called “Boundless” a learning focused initiative between Hartford Public Library and Hartford Public Schools has been created that will redefine the model for urban learning. Boundless ensures that all public school children have their own library card.  The library and schools will work together on programming and purchasing decisions to expand the collections of e-books, traditional texts and online learning resources available for students.

The information from the summit and information gathered as part of this first stage of the ConnectED Library Challenge will be used in the development of a national report which will be widely distributed.

Note: Contact IMLS Communications and Government Affairs Office at 202-653-4757 for event photos. Follow the event on Twitter with #librariesforall.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Urban Libraries Council
The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is the premier membership organization of approximately 140 of North America’s leading public library systems. ULC and its members lead research aimed at creating new models and tools that strengthen the library's ability to meet the aspirations of their community. ULC provides a forum for library leaders to share best practices and innovative ideas that inspire programs that support 21st century education, a strong economy, and an active democracy. While ULC libraries primarily represent urban and suburban settings, lessons from their work are widely adapted by libraries of all sizes, including those in rural settings.

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.