January 13, 2014
Los Angeles Public Library offering a high school diploma program
by Nick Davies
The Los Angeles Public Library is launching what they believe to be the first program from a public library to offer accredited high school diplomas, Julie Watson reports for the Huffington Post. Teaming up with a private online learning company, the library will provide career-oriented online courses to adult patrons, as well as a meeting space where they can interact with each other and get assistance from library staff.
Many libraries already have programs to prepare people for the General Educational Development test — which has long been the standard for high school graduate equivalency — but what sets the LAPL program apart is its emphasis on coursework, which the GED does not require. And unlike regular high school students, the adults who enroll will have to choose a career path so that their courses can be geared towards landing a job that matches their interests.
The diploma initiative has been spearheaded by LAPL director John Szabo, who took on the position in 2012 and, since then, has made a concerted effort to have the library connect with the local community and become “a full educational institution” rather than a mere “repository of books.” Szabo is hopeful about the program’s prospects, aiming to give out 150 diplomas in its first year, at a cost of $150,000 to the library. “I believe with every cell in my body that public libraries absolutely change lives and change lives in very big ways,” he said, adding, “We’re excited to think about how we’ll do graduation.”
The superintendent of Career Online High School, Howard A. Liebman, also voiced his support for the LAPL plan: “The exciting thing about public libraries is they are places people trust. So people, who may have felt ashamed about not having a high school diploma, will feel safe going there to get one.”
The high school diploma program is set to kick off this month, to start with in areas of LA with high percentages of high school dropouts. While all courses will be given online, Watson writes that library staffers are receiving training to assist the adult learners, and the library is looking into creating spaces where the students can meet up with each other.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.