Diversity & Outreach Columns ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services


Introducing the Ardmore Literacy Initiative

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In 2013, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation (DGLF) approached ALA and ProLiteracy with an idea to improve access to literacy services and resources in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Since its founding in 1993, DGLF has awarded more than $97 million to libraries, schools, and organizations to advance literacy and basic education. They found that Ardmore, the location of one of Dollar General's regional distribution centers, had something special - a community united and dedicated to addressing the need for literacy across the lifespan.

Located between Oklahoma City and Dallas, Ardmore is an economic hub for Southern Oklahoma. The region is home to several large employers, including a plant for Michelin North America, Mercy Medical Center, as well as large distribution centers for Dollar General and Best Buy. This economic activity has attracted many people to the region, and as a result, demand for programs addressing lifelong literacy has grown along with it - from family literacy to  adult basic education and GED, and English as a second language. Ardmore's civic spirit and longstanding community-wide dedication to meeting the population's literacy needs emerged out of the 1980s, as the Ardmore Public Library teamed up with organizations and institutions to deliver services including Adult Basic Education and ESL instruction.

Noticing this strong local commitment towards strengthening literacy, DGLF brought together national partners, including the ALA, The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce, Jobs for the Future, The National Center for Families Learning, and ProLiteracy to build upon Ardmore's efforts. With this support in place, the Ardmore Literacy Initiative took shape. All partners are now working with community leaders and the local schools to promote literacy services to all, with the goal of establishing an replicable model to build coalitions to enhance literacy access in similar communities across the country.

With this infusion of support from these national partners, the Ardmore Public Library teamed up with the Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, The Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma, New Dimension Literacy Council, St. Mary Catholic Church, and Ardmore City Schools to form Ardmore Literacy Leadership (ALL) to provide all Ardmore citizens with access to learn the skills vital to success.

The ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, under The American Dream Starts @ your library(r) grant program funded by DGLF, provided the resources and support for the Ardmore Public Library to hire a full-time literacy coordinator and build and open a computer lab to serve as a hub for ALL's activities in the community.


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