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City Council member Sam Newby
Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 23, 201512:00 PM EST

Program would take library to urban core neighborhoods

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Young people who live in the urban core soon may get some needed help in leaping toward a better education.

Legislation filed by City Council member Sam Newby would use $266,000 from Jacksonville Journey contingency funds to allow the Jacksonville Public Library to establish a proposed Library Enhancement Access Program (LEAP).

The program is designed to offer enhanced education opportunities in ZIP Codes 32202, 32204, 32206, 32208, 32209 and 32254.

The urban core was selected because half as many adults in those neighborhoods have attained a high school diploma, compared to Duval County as a whole; the income per capita is 60 percent of the county as a whole ($14,895 compared to $24,983) and of the 37 traditional Duval County Public Schools in the area, 19 received a D or F rating in 2014.

The program is designed to help parents and caregivers build pre-literacy skills in children from birth to 5 years; increase the digital literacy of young adults, ages 16-24; and improve the language literacy of young adults ages 18-24.

“The Jacksonville Journey is about intervention and prevention for at-risk youth,” said Jennifer Giltrop, public library deputy director. “Family literacy success is what libraries do every day.”

The concept behind the program is to take services and trained personnel out of the library and into the community. The short-term goals are to increase digital and language literacy of neighborhood residents up to age 24 and to help young adults who did not graduate for high school prepare for the General Educational Development certificate.

The long-term goal of the program is to help the targeted population to be better able to achieve their educational and workforce goals by taking advantage of the resources available at the public library, she said.

The funds will be used to hire an e-specialist who will provide computer training; two literacy program specialists to meet adult basic education; and an early childhood specialist to expand into the community efforts already in place at all 21 public libraries.

The library will purchase equipment for a mobile computer lab to allow literacy training at off-site locations such as day care facilities, as well as the 10 city-sponsored community centers in the area, five centers managed by non-city agencies and four centers managed by the Police Athletic League.

Pre-GED classes equivalent to those provided at the library’s Center for Adult Learning will be offered at some off-site locations.

Giltrop described the effort as “the bookmobile of the 21st century.”

The program will take advantage of the extended library hours made possible by additional funding in the 2015-16 city budget. It will complement the new “Student Card” program that provides access to all library services to every K-5 student in Duval County Public Schools, she said.

The proposal indicates the library will report the program’s progress each month to the Jacksonville Journey Oversight Committee.

Newby said he views the enhanced access program as part of the effort to reduce crime.

According to statistics from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, in 2014, violent crime in the area designated for the program was more than triple the rate of the county as a whole with 16 incidents per 1,000 population compared to five.

“There are three ways to tackle crime: prevention, police and education,” Newby said. “Statistics show a person who is more educated is less likely to commit a crime or be a victim of crime.”

The legislation is the first that Newby has filed since July 1 when he took office.

“When it passes, I’m going to frame it,” he said.

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