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Winnebago County Literacy Council - Partners in Literacy story
A shared passion for literacy has made living under the same roof a logical and beneficial partnership for the Oshkosh Public Library and the Winnebago County Literacy Council  (WCLC).
20,000 adults in Winnebago County can’t read past a third grade level. WCLC empowers people to reach their literacy goals so they can thrive in our community. They create opportunities for people to read, write, speak, and perform everyday skills with confidence. WCLC has offered free tutoring and support services to adults reading at low to intermediate literacy levels since 1989. They also offer English classes for non-English speakers, family literacy classes, health literacy instruction and other related support services. In 2012 the agency served more than 250 people.
The library donates office, classroom and tutoring space to the WCLC and provides technology support. “Teaching a person to read opens doors – to better jobs, greater self-sufficiency and fuller, more rewarding lives, explains Terri Hansen, WCLC executive director. “The support from the library allows us to maintain a clear focus on the business of teaching people.”
Because students come to the library to meet with their tutors and attend classes, they have the opportunity to learn how to use the library as well.
“Our learners come to us to improve their English skills. They get more accustomed to being in the library, get a library card, and eventually start coming in when they don’t have class to check out books and use the computers,” Hansen explains. “It’s great to see our students come in with their kids to use the library.”
Besides easy access to books and other resources, the library’s extensive hours and downtown location (on the city bus line and near the offices of World Relief refugee services) make it a convenient meeting place for WCLC students and the more than 80 tutors who work with them.
“This is a safe place for our learners and tutors to meet,” Hansen says. “It’s dignified, neutral, non-threatening and non-judgmental.”
Most literacy councils are standalone offices that must build their own library of materials to use for tutoring and classes, according to Jan Edelstein, Ph.D., Education Coordinator for WCLC. “We have rich resources here and we try to tap into those as much as possible,” Edelstein says. WCLC staff consult with reference librarians to select materials for tutors to use; literacy students learn how to check out and return library materials; students who can read and write English, but need help speaking the language, can check out and listen to books on CD.
Collaborating with WCLC introduces future readers to the public library, where they can grow and achieve their personal goals, says Library Director Jeff Gilderson-Duwe. “People come to the Winnebago County Literacy Council to improve their lives by learning how to read,” Gilderson-Duwe says. “Where better to start this journey of literacy and lifelong learning than the public library.” --October 2013