LearningExpress Library - An Uncertain Future for Access in Idaho

gina.persichini's picture

Since 2010, as part of the “online @ your library” program of the Idaho Commission for Libraries, Idahoans have been using LearningExpress Library (LEL) online learning center to improve scores on college entrance exams, prepare for the GED, and learn how to use popular software.  The service can be accessed for free by any Idaho resident along with other Libraries Linking Idaho (LiLI) databases at www.LiLI.org.

For the college and career ready crowd, LearningExpress is a great all-in-one tool covering K-12 tools in all general subject areas, GED preparation, AP Exam preparation, SAT & ACT preparation, common software courses, and preparation for professional licensing.  It’s the go-to tool whether you’re still in high school, finishing up your Commercial Driver’s License training, or looking to polish your MicrosoftTM software skills. And LearningExpress isn’t just for students. Small businesses can take advantage of the software tutorials to train staff. Covering multiple editions of Microsoft, Adobe, Macintosh, and Corel products, LearningExpress makes it possible to provide just-in-time training for staff with beginning or advanced skill sets.
But, soon, Idaho residents could lose this valuable tool.

On October 31st, the grant funding supporting the service ended. As a result, 41 Idaho libraries demonstrated how much they value LEL by contributing one-time funds to keep the service going through the current fiscal and academic year.  To continue LEL after June 30, 2014, the Idaho Commission for Libraries has included $110,400 in ongoing annual funding in its FY2015 budget request that will be considered by the Idaho Legislature in its 2014 session.

Without the funding, the Commission cannot maintain the statewide service. This would be devastating to rural libraries that rely on the tool to help their community members.  When Jane Somerville, Director of the Stanley Community Public Library, shared how it is used in her community, she said, “I was so excited to tell one of our patrons about LearningExpress. She wanted a book with practice tests for the Praxis exam, and I showed her how to get on LEL. She was almost in tears, she was so grateful!” That LearningExpress Library user went on to pass her test with "distinguished scores" and is now a teacher in Idaho.

Throughout Idaho, LearningExpress is helping Idahoans succeed. In another library we’re told, “I use this database with patrons more than any other. I have helped patrons in the last few years pass their GREs and GEDs using LEL. This is a must-have database to help patrons succeed.” During Fiscal Year 2013, the LearningExpress tools were used over 25,000 times – the majority of that in GED, K-12, and college entrance preparation.

Before LearningExpress was available in Idaho, most libraries stocked print editions of study guides to help individuals succeed on those milestone tests.  Unfortunately, those print editions can only be used by one person at a time.  By moving to the electronic version, multiple people can access a study guide at the same time. In addition, those practice tests include timers and an online interface similar to the real-life experience—especially valuable with the GED test available as computer-based only starting in 2014 .

LearningExpress is available now at www.LiLI.org or at any Idaho library. The current subscription is in place through June 30, 2014.  The status of continuing the subscription will be determined as the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and the full legislature work through the budget process during January, February, and March.  ICfL staff will provide updates on the status of LearningExpress Library availability as information is available.