A new partnership brings professional development courses to a library near you.

Your public library is more than a place to go borrow books. In recent years, public libraries have evolved into important community hubs where people can access multimedia resources, attend classes and workshops, and advance their careers. During the most recent economic downturn, more than 30 million people reported using library computers for employment or career information. Now, thanks to a recent partnership between Skillsoft and Gale, an educational publishing company, public libraries will offer a series of free online professional development courses for their patrons.

This allows public libraries to play a more direct role in improving their local workforces, says Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager at Gale. The courses—more than 250—will cover business skills, such as finance and communication, leadership soft skills, and computer skills (mostly focusing on Microsoft Office). They are self-paced, involve interactive components and assessments, and learners earn certificates of completion after passing the courses. Library patrons also can access the courses anywhere, on any device.

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To keep the course content relevant and up-to-date, Skillsoft constantly gathers feedback from its 19 million users through a variety of channels, and pairs it with advice from subject matter and online learning experts. Meanwhile, Gale ensures that public library staff are well trained to help patrons make the best use of Skillsoft's content.

The public library is "a perfect venue for education, upskilling, and career development resources," says Pam Boiros, vice president of global corporate marketing at Skillsoft. "Gale and Skillsoft are working together to bring libraries even more robust training that addresses key workplace skills desired by employers, which can open up a world of possibilities for library patrons."