Karisa Tashjian, originally from Chester Springs, Pa., gravitated to work in literacy. After studying at Clark University, she moved to Maryland and volunteered to tutor a Korean woman in English.
She is now director of the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative and of adult-literacy services for the Providence Public Library.
RIFLI is a 15-year-old adult-literacy program that has Providence Public Library as its fiscal agent. About 200 adults use it to learn to read, use technology, manage finances and apply for jobs.
Programs range from English as a Second Language, to college-transition classes and citizen-preparation classes. Immigrants, in particular, come to public libraries first for help with literacy, Tashjian says.
She is project director for a two-year, $498,000 adult-learning grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership program that went into effect Nov. 1.
PBN: Who are the underserved populations that the two-year grant will help and how will you serve them?
TASHJIAN: There are four: those with low educational attainment, low digital-literacy skills, low English language literacy and those with disabilities. We’re going to develop, expand and improve statewide resources. For example, TechAccess of RI will come into the library and provide professional development for librarians and do assessments on assistive technology for patrons. [This provides] the adults access to resources to improve their skills to lead to educational credentials and employment.
PBN: What are some of the specific literacy projects you intend to launch and when will they start?
TASHJIAN: They will roll out beginning in April and will include access to the [online] lifelong-learning portal, specific activities in the lab that can provide support if people are having difficulty using the computer or finding the learning resources they need. And we’ll also offer specific classes using online-learning programs to build their skills.