ConnectED Library Challenge Summit

Jennifer Peterson /

See also Communities across the U.S. Answer Call for a Library Card for Every Student (IMLS press release)

The White House hosted a convening on Tuesday, with mayors, county executives, school superintendents, and library leaders from approximately 50 cities and counties, as part of a national initiative to connect students to public library system resources. These communities are among the 60 communities that answered the call of President Barack 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, hosted with the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Urban Libraries Council, and the American Library Association, was both a strategy session and a celebration of the community leaders who accepted the president's challenge last April.

"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."

The White House posted a 50-minute video of the morning's introduction (below) and a longer version is available here.

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 school 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 (AZ) 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 (CT) 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.
  • Ramsey County Library (MN), in a joint project with White Bear Lake Area Schools, is piloting the distribution of Student Access Cards (see video) to support educational access to digital information. Cards can be used at any Ramsey County Library and in White Bear Lake ISD 624 Media Centers. The collaboration provides increased student access to digital resources like e-books, e-audiobooks, Homework Rescue, and a variety of research data bases. Digital resources will be utilized via Chromebooks distributed to students through White Bear Lake area schools, library computers and through personal devices.

Lee Keesler, CEO of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (NC) shared a bit more about the day's events in his recap, Attending the ConnectEd Library Challenge Summit in Washington DC: "In the afternoon, summit attendees met in small groups to assess the progress that has been made in the Challenge, and how to sustain and build on this work. This exercise produced rich discussion and much sharing of ideas and best practices. There was universal agreement that improved access is the beginning, not the end, and that these partnerships of local government, schools and libraries must remain active and engaged."

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. 

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