ProLiteracy and ALA Launch an Online Course to Build Adult Literacy through Libraries
Posted on March 22, 2017

The American Library Association (ALA) and ProLiteracy have partnered to develop a free online course to help libraries across the country integrate adult literacy services and policies to address the serious problem that in the United States there are 36 million adults who lack adequate literacy and basic skills. 

With the award of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant, ProLiteracy and the ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services joined forces to further the work outlined in 2013 in Adult Literacy through Libraries: An Action Agenda. Experts in the field developed an online, interactive course with 10 modules to guide and challenge libraries that are not currently offering services for adult learners. The module includes steps libraries can take to become part of the solution. 

“There is an adult literacy need that drove this project,” said Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “One in six American adults cannot read above a third-grade level. This amounts to a staggering 36 million people between the ages of 16 and 65 who struggle on a daily basis to perform basic tasks such as completing a job application, understanding a medication label, or reading a simple story to their children. Libraries, whose main mission is built on the bedrock of literacy, have an especially important role to play as a link to adult literacy instruction.” 

“ALA and ProLiteracy are teaming together to help literacy providers, librarians and library workers develop innovative adult literacy services.” said Dr. Julie Todaro, ALA President. “This exciting new tool will underscore the role public libraries play in promoting adult literacy in their communities.” 

The course is designed so that, after finishing the Introduction and Community Needs Assessment modules, library staff can choose which additional modules they wish to take based on their library’s needs. The modules include information about building and promoting a collection of print and digital materials that meets the readability needs, goals, and interests of adults with limited literacy. The course increases access to technology to better serve adults with limited literacy or English language skills, and includes recommendations on how libraries can form collaborations and strategic partnerships to support adult literacy in their communities. 

The public library’s greatest human resource is the skilled librarians and library staff on the frontlines of public service. This course provides librarians with the training and knowledge to help adults with low literacy pursue their educational, work, and life goals. Adults are coming to the library in growing numbers not only to use the public computers, access print and digital resources, and search and apply for jobs, but to also improve their education. Librarians are being asked to stretch their resources, and they are responding with diligence, determination, and remarkable creativity. 

To register and learn more about the Adult Literacy through Libraries course, visit ProLiteracy Education Network at