Our current work brings together interdisciplinary faculty and research scientists from the University of Washington (UW) Information School and the University of Maryland (UMD) College of Information Studies; advisory board members (AB) that are experts in connected learning (CL), continuing education, and rural and small public libraries; and partners that have reputable standing in terms of reaching rural and small libraries nationwide. The main goal of this project is to provide continuing education opportunities to library staff in rural and small libraries on how to embed CL principles into teen programs and services. We are scaling the ConnectedLib Toolkit by tailoring the content to meet the needs of rural and small library staff to serve their community’s teens successfully, as well as launching a community of practice (CoP) and learning circles that will empower these staff to support each other in building capacity and skills to implement CL activities. In addition, we are working with participating library staff to develop a new module for the Toolkit that focuses on youth civic engagement. This module is inspired by the recognition that many rural and small libraries serve as hubs of civic participation in their communities and are therefore well positioned to promote the civic engagement of their teen patrons.
We are partnering with two organizations: YALSA and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). YALSA was an instrumental partner in the grant that the ConnectedLib team previously received, specifically in the design, development, and deployment of the ConnectedLib Toolkit nationwide. The project will fill a significant need to produce worked examples of the application of CL in rural and small libraries, which is almost non-existent. It also fills a need to equip rural and small library staff with skills to design, develop, implement, and evaluate CL to serve teens in underserved areas that need such programming.