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Lower literacy skills and educational attainment have dire economic consequences. People with lower literacy skills have significantly decreased worker wage potential, discouraging regional and national economic growth. In Building Literacy Skills Leads to Economic Growth: The Case for Investing in Libraries to Grow the Economy, Barbara Alvarez explores the connections between literacy, educational attainment, and economic growth and the unique, powerful role that libraries can play in putting policy into practice.
Public libraries are uniquely positioned to improve literacy and remove barriers to higher educational attainment levels and thus contribute to economic growth locally and nationally. Indeed, one of the core roles of libraries is to provide literacy services to adults, children, and families. From book clubs to tutoring programs, resources, and instructional classes, libraries provide countless opportunities for adults to increase their literacy skills, pass a General Educational Development (GED) test, improve their English language proficiency, and engage with their communities. This paper reviews current effective models for libraries, elected officials, and funders to collaborate and improve local and regional economic development through literacy and education services delivered by our nation's public libraries.
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While the majority of libraries currently offer these services with current funding levels, this paper clearly defines how increased funding must be supplied by policymakers, and sustainable partnerships between libraries and government must be created to close the literacy and educational attainment gap in the United States. Closing this gap improves the lives of generations of families and promotes local, state, and national economic growth opportunities.
About the Author: Barbara Alvarez is an information professional, instructor, and community activist. She holds her Master in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and is author of Embedded Business Librarianship for the Public Librarian with ALA Editions. She is the co-founder of The Library OnConference, a free virtual conference with nearly 500 participants from 39 countries. Additionally, she implemented the nation’s first library Memory Care Center. For this work, Barbara has received awards and recognition, including University of Illinois’ Teachers Ranked as Excellent, Wisconsin Library Association’s Programming Innovation Award, the PrivCo Prize for Outstanding Business Librarianship, the BRASS Morningstar Public Librarian Support Award, and a nomination for the Athena Leadership Award. Please visit https://www.barbaralvarez.com/ for more about her work.
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