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Library, Marshall Adult Education chosen to participate in initiative

October 12, 2012
By Karin Elton , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Although services are offered, people don't always go to the Adult Basic Education offices in the evening to improve their literacy skills - it might be more convenient to go to a local library, said a local literacy advocate.

Pat Thomas, the coordinator for Adult Basic Education Southwest Minnesota, said organizations working together makes sense.

"We all serve the community," she said. "We all have a common customer seeking support to be more self-sufficient in economics, health literacy and in education. We need to be serving with more players at the table."

The Marshall-Lyon County Library and ABE both have been selected as pilot organizations that will participate in the Otto Bremer Foundation's L3: The Bremer Rural Libraries and Literacy Leadership Institute. A local team, including representatives from the library, Adult Education, Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota, Southwest Health and Human Services, Southwest Private Industry Council and Western Community Action, has received scholarships to participate in the L3 Institute.

Thomas said Marshall is unique in being open to various entities working together.

"The spirit of collaboration is much more alive in our community than in neighboring communities," she said. "Marshall is to be commended."

Thomas recommends collaboration as a way to get things done efficiently and effectively.

"I don't think the future allows agencies to operate as silos," she said. "We must work together to meet the needs of our customers."

Holly Martin Huffman, Marshall-Lyon County Library director, appreciates the chance to better serve her patrons.

"I've always liked the idea of a library being a place of second chances and lifelong learning,"?she said.

L3 was created in response to studies conducted by the Otto Bremer Foundation on ways to strengthen rural communities. Its research indicated that a focus on libraries and literacy has the potential to create broad, positive impact on smaller towns and cities.

The library will have trained staff to assist people in their literacy goals.

"It could be a (Southwest Minnesota State University) work/study person who could be at a physical location where she delivers services such as teaching computer skills or could help people by letting them know what services are available such as Public Health, Workforce, Human Services and Western Community Action. She could point them in the right direction," Thomas said.

Thomas said health literacy is another unmet need.

"There could be a diabetes class for example," she said.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has awarded four Minnesota libraries, including Marshall-Lyon County Library, a total of $180,800 for projects that promote health equity in communities. The library-based projects engage low-income communities and communities of color to improve health and build employment skills, educational opportunities, social connections and family support.

Thomas said the aim is to give the area better employees.

"They can't be good employees if they haven't got the skills or a healthy lifestyle," she said.



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