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Chattanooga Public Library Executive Director and Hamilton County Department of Education Director of Literacy attend White House convening to Create Strong Partnerships as part of Obama’s ConnectED Library Challenge

Chattanooga Public Library Executive Director, Corinne Hill, along with Hamilton County Department of Education Director of Literacy, Becky Coleman, joined more than 90 officials from 45 communities across the country in Washington D.C. on January 19th to explore strategies for creating strong partnerships to ensure that all school children have easy access to the learning resources at their public library.  The one-day meeting was part of President Obama’s ConnectED Library Challenge, an initiative to get a library card in the hand of every school age child.

The national convening, called the ConnectED Library Challenge: Answering the Call, was a celebration held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for the communities that accepted President Obama’s challenge last spring. The meeting provided a platform for those involved in the initiative to collaborate and share ideas of successful approaches as well as foster local partnerships for future success.  A national report summarizing lessons learned among the participating communities and strategies for continuing the work will be prepared and widely distributed.

The Chattanooga Public Library and HCDE started their partnership in 2014  making  library card applications a standard procedure during annual fall enrollment, regardless if a student’s home address is outside the Chattanooga city limits.  In the first year (2014-2015) 23,795 public school students students received free library cards. This year, (2015-2016) 25,494 new cards were issued to public school students which represents  approximately  11% of the library’s total circulation.

“Our goal was simply to make sure every public school student had a library card and could access all of our amazing resources. We created a system-wide turn-key process in the schools that is already in its second year and expanding. That is one successful outcome. The real success is seeing how many kids are using their public library again,” said CPL executive director, Corinne Hill.

“Strong partnerships among local government, schools and libraries within our communities will improve educational outcomes for all children,” said Susan Benton, president and CEO of Urban Libraries Council. “The forming of these partnerships is a significant first step in bridging the divide of technology and educational resources in communities across the United States.”

The ConnectED Library Challenge recognizes the critical role that libraries play in providing students with the technology and resources they need to be successful learners. It also recognizes the critical role that libraries play as trusted community anchors that support learning and connectivity at all times.

“Succeeding in today’s society requires a higher order of problem-solving, critical thinking skills and continuous learning throughout life,” said Benton. “A vital, and sometimes overlooked, resource is the public library, which is well-positioned to facilitate collaboration, build partnerships, address gaps and support a lifetime of improved education outcomes.”

President Obama launched the White House ConnectED Library Challenge in April 2015, calling on city government, school leaders and library directors to work together to foster partnerships that ensure that every child enrolled in school can receive a library card. There are currently 60 communities participating in the Challenge. The program’s national partners include the Urban Libraries Council, Institute of Museum and Library Services and American Library Association.

For more information on the ConnectED Library Challenge, visit: https://www.imls.gov/issues/national-initiatives/connected-library-challenge

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