A COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS:

                  A Library Rhode map for Life Long Learning in the 21st century.

―Access to learning across a lifetime may become among the essential civil rights of the 21st century‖

                        (The 21st Century Learner, Beverly Sheppard, IMLS)

1.. Brief History of the Initiative
2.. The Vision
3.. Who is our learner?
4.. What are the trends impacting life long learning?
5.. What are our greatest strengths?
6.. Action Steps
          1.. Life Long learning programs
          2.. One Catalog
          3.. Statewide databases
A. History of the Initiative

On May 7, 2004, the community of Rhode Island librarians wrapped up an all day session in which there were
presentations and discussion on the future of Rhode Island libraries. This conference, conceived and executed by the
LORI (Library of R.I.) committee and supported by other library groups including Office of Library and Information
Services (OLIS) and the R.I. Library Association, was called Navigating the Future of Libraries: a Rhode Map or
―LibFutures‖ for short. This library futures meeting had been suggested as the next step after a lecture given the
previous November by James Gilmore, coauthor of The Experience Economy about customer service trends of
tomorrow. At the wrap up session the participants concluded that their concerns could be arranged into three
categories: library customers, services and resources, and library people (staff and advocates). The appendix of this
document contains a listing of the many issues delineated in each category. Three major themes emerged from the
conference: ―explore collaboration among library types to result in better service; all residents need easy access to
library resources, and we must focus on knowing the customer and marketing to each segment of the population.‖
(What’s Next for Rhode Island Libraries; wrap up session, Carolyn Noah facilitator) However, at least one conference
speaker clearly argued that perhaps we were too focused on improving 20th century librarianship when what we needed
was a new paradigm for the 21st century.

The library community widely agreed that the conference had been an excellent start to the process of examining our
future. Since 2003 a group of library leaders representing public, school, academic, and special libraries had been
working on the ―LibFutures‖ Steering Committee. This committee had already successfully advocated for a legislative
committee to study library services. That committee recommended a Town Meeting of librarians and library advocates
be held in December 2004. The purpose of that town meeting would be to discuss R.I. library issues in more specific
terms and determine concrete next steps.

Over 100 librarians and library advocates participated in that meeting. There were discussions about: ―common
themes for library development…, key service goals, potential gains resulting from goal implementation, barriers to
implementation (including) ―gorilla‖ issues…, success factors resulting from service goals, existing supports that will
enhance service goal implementation, and next steps to take.‖ (Town Meeting: Next Step, LibFutures Committee)

One common theme emerging strongly from the Town Meeting was ―a shared vision for greater connectivity between
all types of libraries… and library users.‖ (Town Meeting: Next Step, LibFutures Committee).

As part of that connectivity, the group reached a consensus that two service goals of primary importance were the need
for one state catalog and for more efficient and effective provision of statewide databases. They also generally agreed
that the previous 1999 New Possibilities report had already outlined these key goals, and that the library community
must move forward now with the planning for these key goals rather than wait for a formal state study as initially
proposed. It was also brought forth that in the technology milieu we must not forget the role that libraries play in life
long learning through programs. For a listing of all the themes which emerged, consult the document in the appendix
titled ―Town Meeting Chart‖.

As a next step, the LibFutures Committee established working groups for each of the three goals: One Catalog,
Statewide Databases, and Life long Learning.

In the winter of 2005, the three groups were formed, with emphasis on ensuring that all library types were represented.

This document is the result of this process and will be used to inform the Legislative Commission, which is scheduled
to begin work sometime in the fall of 2005.

B. The Vision

All Rhode Island residents, regardless of age, city/town, language, or educational status, will have access and
opportunity to pursue their personal learning goals through a range of programs and technologies throughout their lives.
The state government of R.I. is legally obligated to support this vision to create both a virtual and a personal, statewide
Community of Learners. R.I. General Law 29-6 obligates the State to full support of statewide networking and
resource sharing activities. Furthermore, Article XII, Section 1 of the R.I. Constitution states ―Duty of general
assembly to promote schools and libraries.—The diffusion of knowledge, as well as of virtue among the people, being
essential to the preservation of their rights and liberties, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public
schools and public libraries, and to adopt all means which it may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the
advances and opportunities of education and public library services.‖

This vision will be accomplished through A Community of Learners initiative in three primary ways.

First, residents will have user friendly electronic access via the web at home, work, school, and library, to the holdings
of all libraries in Rhode Island, including public, academic, school, and special, through a single catalog system; and
that those holdings will be available for borrowing, both directly and through a delivery system, by any resident with a
valid library card (whether it be that multiple cards are accepted or that one card for all residents has been
implemented). The ―One Catalog‖ committee report will provide the details of this initiative.

Second, residents will have electronic access to a multitude of databases via home, school, work, or library that support
their personal, life skills, and educational learning goals. The ―Statewide Databases‖ committee report will provide the
details of this initiative.

Third, residents will have knowledge of and access to a wide variety of life long learning (free choice) programs that
support their learning and enrichment needs throughout their lives. Such programs will also support the social and
civic aspect of the library as ―the third place‖, and will provide safe, enriching environments for the children, youth,
and families of Rhode Island. This initiative also includes ensuring that all R.I. residents are information literate and
that educational institutions support appropriate information literacy standards. The ―Life-long Learning Committee‖
will provide the details of this initiative.

The state of Rhode Island should financially support this vision to create both a virtual and a personal, statewide
Community of Learners.

―…Such a society (in an age of thought and information) must become a learning society in which all people share in
the opportunities to increase skills, knowledge, understanding and the capacity to reflect on and adapt to change‖. (The
21st Century Learner, Beverly Sheppard, IMLS)

C. Who is our learner?

All R.I. residents are learners. Thus, numerous factors must be considered in any examination of our learners.

The total population is 1,048,319. That is a decrease of 4.5 % from 1990 to 2000. However, the immigrant population,
specifically Hispanic, has grown by 8.7 % statewide, with much larger percentage gains in R.I. core cities. In
Providence, the growth was 30%. A language other than English spoken at home has increased 11.4 % statewide;
again with a larger gain in core cities (e.g. Providence gain is 43%).

The percent of high school graduates (persons over age 25) is 78%, with a smaller percentage in core cities. The
percent with undergraduate college degrees or higher educational levels is 25.6 %. Thus, we are a state predominately
of high school graduates. The 1999 statewide median household income was $ 42,090, but only $ 26,867 in
Providence. Persons below poverty level equal 11.9 % statewide but is far higher in core cities. A check of Kids
Count 2004 indicates that though children in R.I. are improving their basic statistics, high levels of poverty, single
households, and births to teenage mothers remain, and are concentrated in core cities. In fact, more than 40% of
children five and under in Providence are at or below the poverty level.
Also of importance to life long learning issues is that the high school drop out rate is high and the corresponding
graduation rate is unacceptable. According to the Providence Journal article of June ??? , the graduation rate in R.I. is
82.8 as reported by the Dept. of Education. However, an independent agency called Education Trust reports it at 74%.
In R.I. there are seven high schools below the DOE’s target of acceptability of 71.4%. All seven are in urban areas,
with three being in Providence. Unlike some states, R.I. statistics do take into account the drop out rate. Thus, that
state average of 74% means that 26% did not make it to graduation. But at Hope High in Providence, 48.8% did not
(which means more students did not make it to graduation than did!

The Nation’s Report Card: 2003 Reading Report for Rhode Island indicates that Rhode Island’s students mirrored the
country in that the percentage of students who performed at or above the ―proficient‖ level was 29 %, similar to the
national score. But more disturbing is that Rhode Island’s grade 4 reading scores have not changed significantly since
1992. Also, of importance is that the core urban area students are scoring significantly less than the state average. And
although R.I. is at the national average, a 69% below proficiency level seems dismal. The 8th grade scores are similar.
In 2003, the percentage of students at or above the ―proficient‖ level was 30 %, similar to the national average.
Further, when viewed through the lens of race/ethnicity, The gap between the white and black student in percentage of
4th grade students at or above ―proficient’ is 24%; between white and Hispanic also at 24 %. In 8th grade, the gap is
21% and 28% respectively.

Clearly, we have a youth population and a future adult population with tremendous literacy needs and education

There are 450,000 public library (C.L.A.N.) cardholders. The total circulation in public libraries in FY04 was 7.2
million. Interlibrary loan borrowing through CLAN was just ¾ of a million items both provided to CLAN and lent from
CLAN. The total program attendance at public libraries in FY04 equaled 317,750. Disregarding the one library that
accounted for forty percent of that number, programs are spread out over most of the other public libraries. Programs
are not dependent on any one demographic group.

There are fifty-one schools currently in RILINK, serving 38,000 students and teachers.

There are many more schools that are unable to participate due to funding constraints.

Rhode Island, like many other states and even cities of one million persons, has pockets of affluence and education, a
core component of poverty, immigration, and lower educational and economic levels, and a large percentage of
population somewhere in between.

What does this tell us in terms of supporting a Community of Learners?

Such disparities in demographics tell us that any technology initiatives must be applicable to a wide range of audiences,
and that each individual community will need to craft its own approach to life long learning needs and programs. The
needs of urban Providence will differ from the needs of rural Burrillville, which will differ from the needs of suburban
Barrington. But every community can structure their approaches using the same means: technology and programs.
And every library can work to ensure their methods reflect the themes suggested by IMLS:

         ―Learning should be based on 4 pillars:
                 learning to live together, learning to know, learning to do, learning to be.‖
                  (The 21st Century Learner, Beverly Sheppard, IMLS)
D. What are the trends that impact lifelong learning?

The Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1963)

Rhode Island is populated by many baby boomers who tend to be the residents holding most of the state’s wealth.
They are retiring in record numbers, as well as retiring earlier, and that trend will continue for several more years. They
are generally healthier and more active at retirement age and living longer than the previous generations. They have
the will and the time for learning and enrichment activities, as well as for volunteer opportunities. In fact, they have the
expectation that their retirement years will be personally fulfilling. Boomers are also sometimes considered to expect
more in terms of customer service and service expectations than their parents.

Gen X and Y (born 1964 – 1999), Gen Z (born 2000 - 2020)

Generation X and subsequent generations have all grown up, and will continue to grow up, ―quite comfortable in a
world with technology as commonplace, and functioning in ways different‖ (The OCLC Environmental Scan) from the
greatest generation, and even from boomers. These Rhode Islanders may neither expect nor even want what one might
categorize as traditional library services. The OCLC Environmental Scan/the Social Context is perhaps the most
salient exponent of this viewpoint: ―The separate worlds of formal education, leisure pursuits, and work time are fusing
into a seamless world, especially among young adults……Interactivity is a hallmark of young people’s lives. They live
in a collaborative world that doesn’t exist for adults‖.


Arguably second only to technology in impact, immigration must influence any lifelong learning initiative. The rate of
immigration, particularly from Latin America and South America, is increasingly strong, and expected to continue. A
different language and different cultures among the Latino populations presents challenges and opportunities, including
the task of educating the immigrant population to the opportunities available to them through their public library. Also,
perhaps more than any group, those new to our country/state require assistance in learning English, in navigating the
Internet, and in becoming participating citizens. Civic engagement itself becomes a form of lifelong learning. As the
immigrant population tends to settle first in urban areas faced with limited municipal dollars, providing the necessary
school and public library services can be difficult. It is also important to address the early literacy needs of children in
non English speaking homes. Lastly, an important component of our work in this area is the perception of the library
by immigrants. Different cultures respond differently to the concept of public, i.e. government, services. Their
expectations of services and programs may be culturally different, furthered hampered by language issues.

Self sufficiency

Self sufficiency, satisfaction, and seamlessness are but three of the trends which OCLC identifies in its OCLC
Environmental Scan. Just as other industries have moved toward more and more self service, so must libraries. Almost
half of the U.S. population purchased books online in 2002. This trend and others marks an increasing satisfaction
with and use of web based information and content sources. According to the OCLC study, Google answers 200
million search requests a day in 88 languages. And surveys determine that consumers are overall pleased with the
results of their online searches.

The ―third place‖ and Hi Tech Hi Touch

―Social assembly places, the ―third place‖, where people can gather and work alone or in groups have become essential
to healthy communities.‖ (OCLC Environmental Scan). In the era of technology that requires no direct human
interaction, places to interact with others will continue to be important. So while libraries may be implementing self
service strategies because of the trend toward self sufficiency, they will correspondingly be instituting programs to
bring people together for the common purpose of learning and social interaction.
Global economy

Correspondingly, an economic shift to an information economy requires that citizens learn and change throughout their
work lives. The global networks facilitate world wide interest communities, and the role of public services in this
digital environment is under scrutiny. There is also a trend toward globalization versus regionalization. The local and
the global must coexist as equals with differing purposes, for effectiveness. Libraries can be the caretakers of the local
while providing access to the global.

The Haves and Have Nots and the Digital Divide

In Rhode Island, as in many other states and cities, there is a large disparity between those who have computers at
home and those that do not; between those that have personal libraries at home and those that do not; between those
that feel completely comfortable in attending a program at a library and those that do not. The methods of marketing
life long learning, as well as the subject matter itself, are different in these two groups. Libraries play an important role
in closing the digital divide and in equalization of the haves and have nots.

The National Free Choice learning movement

The free choice learning movement is growing nationally, and is thriving in Rhode Island as well, though it might not
be formally recognized. Attendance at museums, libraries, theaters, and community classes, indicate that citizens want
to keep learning, and understand that their careers as well as their personal lives may require a multitude of learning
experiences. The IMLS is at the forefront of this movement, in their recent sponsorship of 21st century learning
conferences and in their grants encouraging collaborations between museums and libraries.

The Rhode Island Out of School Time Movement

The Southeastern New England United Way, as well as the Wallace Foundation and the Providence After School
Alliance are all focusing on out of school time, particularly in the middle school age youth. These movements will be
seeking collaborations with libraries as partners in various youth development initiatives. Libraries can play major
roles in supporting community efforts and community schools in the life long learning needs of the state’s youth.
Extensive research is being conducted to quantify and qualify out of school programs. One such recent document is
from the Evaluation Exchange of the Harvard Family Research Project, Volume XI Number 1 Spring 2005. That issue
states that there is clear evidence that ―both school and nonschool contexts are critical to children’s learning and
achievement‖. In that same issue, a conversation with Richard Rothstein, a research associate at Columbia University
states that ―academic achievement is the product of schools and social institutions and families. School, though part of
the solution, is not the only solution‖. Research is clear that out of school time enrichment experiences are key to the
academic achievement of disadvantaged students.

State and National Information Literacy Standards

The ACRL and AASL ------------------------------------------------------------------

Homeschooling and Alternative schools

Homeschooling by Rhode Island parents, and the growth of charter schools, often without libraries, can not fail to
impact learning. Homeschoolers require additional support by libraries to meet both curriculum and pleasure reading
needs. Parents are often relying on libraries to provide a place wherein education occurs informally in many forms.
Library programs also provide a place of peer social interaction for their home schooled children. Alternative and
charter schools often need to rely on their public library as the substitute for a school library, especially in their initial
startup years when library space and materials cannot yet be included in budgets.

Federal and State Education Legislation

The federal No Child Left Behind Act has impacted greatly on school systems. The four primary foci of the act are
increased accountability for student performance, teacher training to learn and use proven best practices, a reduction of
bureaucracy and increase in flexibility, and parental empowerment, i.e. school choice under certain circumstances. One
can find both proponents and opponents of this act. But surely it has inarguably impacted education by focusing
attention on low performing schools. The disagreement arises when determining the solution for those schools.
Annual academic testing and accountability that does not sufficiently take into account the student demographics, or
the tremendous challenges faced by inadequately funded schools, seems problematic to many. However, the focus on
reading in the early grades through ―Early Reading First‖ programs is a positive development.

Reading Levels and SALT scores

As outlined in the demographics section, Rhode Island’s reading scores indicate a youth population, especially in urban
areas, not meeting reading, writing, and comprehension grade levels. This impacts on the ability of libraries to promote
the use of their materials; and will ultimately result an adult population that does not read except in the most
perfunctory way. Libraries are struggling with their appropriate role in combating these trends, as well as with how to
provide the kinds of materials, services, and programs needed by their various communities.

Preschoolers’ Door to Learning and Every Child Ready to Read @ the library.

Both the American Library Association and the Public Library Association are recognizing the important role that
libraries play in early and emergency literacy,i.e. preparing children to be ready to read and to learn. Recent federal
Head Start legislation has also recognized this role by incorporating libraries into the bill as eligible to be paid as
partners with Head Start.


E. What is our greatest strength?

Our greatest strength is in the library as ―the third place‖. As library services (and perhaps even missions) change in
response to demographic and technological changes in our culture, the library’s role has clearly emerged as
place/space. Libraries are already seen as institutions that help equalize access and opportunities. Libraries are trusted
in their cities and towns as welcoming places where people’s efforts to learn are supported.

           ―The library’s mission to promote life long learning from youth to old age empowers citizens and students to
          achieve a better quality of life, find enjoyment and bridge the digital divide.‖ (Library as Place: Rethinking
          Roles, Rethinking Space, Council on Library and Information Resources)

The Components of the Community of Learners life long learning initiative are:

 1.. Life long learning programs for the 21st century
 2.. One catalog for statewide access
 3.. Statewide database access

Component One: Lifelong Learning Programs

―Book discussion groups are the bowling leagues of today‖ (Cindy Lunghoffer)

Purpose: The Purpose of the Lifelong Learning working group is to support the work of ―LibFutures‖ by
recommending a vision for all Rhode Island Libraries to help patrons build the future of their choice through programs,
materials, on line learning, and help from library personnel who are experts in finding information and in providing

Definition: Life Long Learning Programs (LLPs) are programs that allow and encourage pursuit of an individual’s
learning goals.

The goal is to determine ways to:

 a.. Enable young people to get the best start in life, from birth through high school.
 b.. Promote and sustain learning and education throughout life
 c.. Help adults increase skills in existing jobs or for finding meaningful work.
 d.. Enable retired and elderly populations to engage in activities promoting active healthy minds and bodies
 e.. Offer civic participation through citizenship training and literacy support to immigrant populations.
 f.. Offer opportunities for building social capital by program interactions.
 g.. Enable ALL people the opportunities to become information literate.


As one part of the triad of the Community of Learners Initiative, LLPs are the method of personal interaction between
learner and library and learner and community. Civic engagement, civic participation, and social capital are not only
necessary ingredients of a democracy, but they are desired by citizens as a means to connect with others. ―Technology
is about connectivity, but programs are about connections‖ ( ?? ). To be human is to interact with others. To be a good
citizen is to be exposed to new ideas, to contrary opinions, and to think rationally and make informed decisions. It is
also apparent that a large segment of the population wants to learn through programs in addition to print oriented
means. Furthermore, those with limited print skills benefit from information provided orally. Information&
information literacy – connection — civic participation – form the three cornerstones of why life long learning
programs are an important component in this initiative. Moreover, the essential ingredient for life long learning is
information literacy which means the ability to know that information is needed and the ability to locate, access, and
use that information efficiently and effectively.


With the technology initiatives in place, geographic boundaries cease to exist for materials. Although a program will
by its nature be grounded in one particular place, the geographic nature of R.I. will facilitate access across traditional
―boundaries‖. It will also be possible to provide teleconferencing of some programs, reducing boundaries even further,
though that will be a side benefit of programs, not the main thrust. However, an efficient and effective way to easily
access what’s happening and where it’s happening will be necessary to facilitate maximum access.

The LLPs working group recommends the following actions:

1. Community of Learners grant program

Because of the diversity of our state and the unique needs of patrons, it will be important not to impose one
standardized program on multiple communities. Thus, the state of Rhode Island should provide funding for a
Community of Learners grant program, similar to a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) program that other
states have, which would fund programs meeting specific, defined criteria as a life long learning program. The
recommended way to achieve the funds for this initiative is for the state of R.I. to fully fund the Office of Library and
Information Services, thus freeing up federal LSTA funds for life long learning grants.

As life long learning needs to be a community effort, collaborations and partnerships with other agencies,
organizations, or types of libraries, would be a requirement of such grants as well. Furthermore, any library applying
for this grant would be expected to have done a needs assessment, including community input, i.e. an assessment of
their learners’ needs. The library would also be expected to have a well designed evaluation component as part of their
application process.

In addition, Rhode Island will consider an application for an IMLS National Leadership Grant for 2007 in the category
of ―Advancing Learning Communities‖ to create a model one state information literacy program to implement
information literacy standards K – 16+.

We estimate an approximate cost of $ 450,000 a year or whatever amount the LSTA funds were in the preceding year,
less the amount of one fulltime salary to administer the grants.

2. A per capita LLP support program

Any library may apply for a Community of Learners grant. However, as it would be a finite amount of funding, it is
conceivable that not every library could be funded. Every library should make a commitment to LLPs, however. To
that end, a per capita amount would automatically be allotted to every public library in the state for this purpose only.

This amount would be in addition to the twenty-five percent state grant in aid and would be designated solely for
programming and would have to be reported on annual reporting to OLIS.

If the per capita amount were 25 cents per resident, the approximate amount would be

$ 250,000.

3. Life long learning Database

Of prime importance is that all residents of the state be aware of the full array of LLPs happening in libraries of every
type across the state. Most libraries currently have their own web pages. But to facilitate the greatest access and to
take advantage of Rhode Island’s geographic uniqueness, a centralized database of LLPs should be created which
could be a link from every library’s web page. There would need to be a dedicated position to input and update this

Approximate cost of this initiative would be $ 60,000
4. An annual broad based statewide life long learning initiative

This committee is recommending that one specific statewide program be chosen for long term support in this
Community of Learners Initiative. Currently, there are two premiere examples of statewide lifelong learning
initiatives: The Rhode Island Center for the Book and R.I. Family Literacy. Certainly there are others which could be
considered, but this committee believes these either of these two would be most effective. The R.I. Center for the Book
(the sponsor and coordinator of Reading Across Rhode Island) is a prime example of a new organization with life long
learning as its purpose. Though only in its third year, the success of RARI has demonstrated the effectiveness of such a
statewide initiative. RIFLI is a prime example of a long term organization with a proven track record. Currently, both
organizations rely on grant funding and private donations. Either of these initiatives, or others, deserve stable support.

The approximate cost of this initiative would be approximately $ 70,000 for Center for the Book and approximately $
200,000 for RIFLI.

 4.. Implement an annual public relations/marketing campaign targeting:

              ---- Family Read Nights

              ---- Children’s Book Week in November

              ---- National Library Week in April

 Family Read Nights could occur on a specific time at each library every month; or they could be linked simply by
purpose. But they would be a requirement for eligibility for either of the above life long learning grants. The
marketing would focus on the importance of parent modeling and sharing reading experiences.

Children’s Book Week in November would be a statewide celebration of children’s books. In partnership with
bookstores and schools, libraries could use the week to demonstrate the joys of sharing books, as well as, the
importance of that activity. This could also be done in conjunction with the R.I. Center for the Book.

National Library Week could be an opportunity to showcase the value of libraries to the quality of life, to life long
learning, and to economic development. Tying libraries into job development, workforce literacy, and economic
impact are important for the future support of libraries.

To promote family literacy throughout the state and in conjunction with school and public libraries, funds should be set
aside for public relations efforts aimed at educating

the public to the importance of family reading, children’s books, and the important role that libraries play in those
efforts. The library’s role in preparing children to be ready to read is an especially important one that ALA has
recognized as well.

Approximate cost of this initiative would be:

         Family Reading Nights - $ 2,000 for pr materials

         Children’s Book Week - $ 2,000 for pr materials

         National Library Week - $ 2,000 for pr materials

         General pr - $ 2,000 for materials

Optional – position of Marketing and PR - $ 65,000
The cost of activities at each library would be borne primarily by the library and private sponsors.

6. Support Information Literacy Standards for all ages.

All school libraries must have Internet access and an online public access catalog. Every school should have a fulltime
library media specialist so that all children have access to a library media program and instruction in information
literacy standards.

Out of school adults must have access not only to the Internet but to instruction in how to access, evaluate, and
effectively use digital information. There can be no effective life long learning without achieving information literacy.

Approximate cost of this initiative ------

7. Design and implement effective evaluation methods of life long learning programs for continuous improvement.

We cannot know if we have succeeded without some measure of performance. Knowing what impact we make is
important for continued fiscal support. Whether quantitative, based on the theory of change, or through outcomes,
libraries must be able to speak to funders and the general public about the connections between life long learning
programs and the quality of life in a community and in a state. Being able to relate this to economic impact would also
be paramount.

Approximate cost of this initiative is $ 70,000 for the services of a professional evaluator to conduct trainings and
workshops for librarians throughout the state.

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