College in the public library

An article caught my eye this week about a “microcollege” run by Bard College in the Brooklyn Public Library. it sounded intriguing, bringing college to people who otherwise might not have access to it, via a pubic service they already use. When I read the article, I learned that only 17 students are enrolled this year, although Bard plans to expand on that number. And one of the classes is an ethnomusicology course, which although it sounds interesting, didn’t strike me as necessarily something everyone would want to take.

Bard, of course, is a private liberal arts college where classes like that are probably commonplace. But the whole notion made me curious, and I wondered whether community or other public colleges and public libraries are pairing up anywhere? That led me to the utilitarian sounding Joint Use Library, which “is a unique collaboration between Tidewater Community College and the City of Virginia Beach to combine in a single, dynamic destination the collections, services, programs, and resources of an academic library and a public library to create a new model for lifelong learning and provide synergistic opportunities to enhance personal growth, academic achievement, and quality of life for the College community and for the residents of the City of Virginia Beach. ”

After a quick search, I couldn’t find any other public libraries offering actual credit-bearing college classes, although plenty offer information about MOOCs, continuing education in their community or through vendors they’ve contracted with (like Atomic, Lynda, or Recorded Books), etc. I did come across Life Skills Academy at San José Public Library, which is aimed at helping young adults with everything from “Your First College Class,” to how to find an apartment and how to “not get fired from your first job.” Huh. It seems packed with practical tips and refers readers to books and websites for more information.

I do recall that there is an MLS program that partners with libraries in New Hampshire (and probably elsewhere) offering future librarians a hybrid master’s degree program that takes place both online and in libraries. But I wasn’t able to find any other programs like Bard’s. Do you know of any college credit courses available to public library patrons? Leave a comment below.


A Badge for your Mad Skills

My kids are life learners, without traditional diplomas or grades. We helped our older teen translate his experiences into a narrative transcript for college applications, but I am delighted to hear about a new credentialing system in the works that will help people show the world their life experience and skills, no matter where or how they learned.

I think  “digital badges” will be a fantastic tool for college applicants, job seekers, non-traditional learners, veterans, parents who have spent time out of the workforce — anyone who wants to codify skills, talents, and experience. It will also help recent college graduates who want to explain how their lives have prepared them for employment far beyond what their official transcripts and brief resumes show. Check out these examples of two teens whose badges represent what they love to do (which is also quite naturally what they are good at).

MacArthur Foundation, the same nonprofit that selects “genius” grant recipients each year, are sponsoring a contest with Mozilla and a number of other partners to get this new badge system off the ground. Much the way scouts earn badges or gamers acquire achievements, anyone can post badges for their talents and experiences on a website. Essentially, you tell your own story, which is brilliant; so many people aren’t sure what they want to do, and working on badges could help clarify priorities and passions.

Do your mad skills need some polishing to be badge-worthy? Corbett Barr’s essay on “becoming an expert”  is some of the best advice I’ve ever read. May it be a guide to you on your life-learning journey.