Writing the book on learning lounges

COMPUTER CLASS: Instructor Betty Tavares, left, gives a helping hand to student Lily Minaeliam during an adult digital-literacy workshop at Providence Public Library.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
COMPUTER CLASS: Instructor Betty Tavares, left, gives a helping hand to student Lily Minaeliam during an adult digital-literacy workshop at Providence Public Library.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

2019 PBN Innovative Companies: Education
Providence Public Library


IT STARTED WITH a few couches, some lamps and a commitment to not look like a formal classroom. But first-time visitors to the original Learning Lounge at the Providence Public Library needed directions to find the pass-through area on the fifth floor of the library’s 1900 building facing Washington Street.

They found it and they kept coming back – to learn how to set up an email account; create a resume; prepare for tests such as the GED; to improve language skills; receive help with a job search. All with the help of an experienced professional.

“It was so popular that other libraries asked us to help them create learning lounges in their libraries,” said Marketing and Communications Director Tonia Mason.

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Other libraries have since created these free, walk-in learning lounges.

Developing digital-literacy initiatives such as the Learning Lounge and sharing them with other libraries is a key focus for the downtown Providence library, as it positions itself as a champion of democratized education. About 75% of the participants in the library’s workforce-education programming are residents of low- to moderate-income households. Half are unemployed.

About 1,500 individuals participated in the Technology Career Pathway Program in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The partnership with Roger Williams University offers career-building programs for English-language learners, GED students, underemployed and unemployed individuals and corrections inmates nearing release. Programs include 10-week Rhode Coders classes in web-development programming and JavaScript. An eight-week Data Navigators course provides a foundation in data analytics and visualization and the opportunity to receive college credit at RWU. High school students can also receive academic credit.

“Right now, we’re living with over 100 people on our Rhode Coders wait list and 100 people on our Data Navigators wait list and that’s without any marketing,” Director of Education Karisa Tashjian said.

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