The Los Angeles Public Library is evolving from a place where people can check out books and surf the Web to one where residents can also earn an accredited high school diploma.
The library announced Thursday that it is teaming up with a private online learning company to debut the program for high school dropouts, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
It’s the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age as they move to establish themselves beyond just being a repository of books to a full educational institution, said the library’s director, John Szabo.
Since taking over the helm in 2012, Szabo has pledged to reconnect the library system to the community and has introduced a number of new initiatives to that end, including offering 850 online courses for continuing education and running a program that helps immigrants complete the requirements for U.S. citizenship.
The library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year at a cost to the library of $150,000, Szabo said. Many public libraries offer programs to prepare students and in some cases administer the General Educational Development test, which for decades was the brand name for the high school equivalency exam.
But Szabo believes this is the first time a public library will be offering an accredited high school diploma to adult students, who will take courses online but will meet at the library for assistance and to interact with fellow adult learners.
High school course work is not required for a GED diploma, which can be obtained by passing an extensive test. The online high school program, however, will require its students to take courses to earn high school credits. The program is slated to begin this month.
“I believe with every cell in my body that public libraries absolutely change lives and change lives in very big ways,” Szabo said.