New Year, New FLC: How Our Family Learning Center Program Has Evolved
In 1999, a handful of generous donors invested startup funds into a new Long Beach Public Library program called the Family Learning Centers (FLCs). The goal of this program was to create space within each of city’s twelve libraries in which students and their parents could obtain free, one-on-one homework help and tutoring. The centers, staffed by highly qualified Learning Guides, would also help parents with résumés, cover letters and job searches. Since then, the Family Learning Centers have expanded greatly both in the services they offer and the number of patrons they serve.
In 2014, the digital makerspace Studio program was established as an extension of the Family Learning Center program, putting state-of-the-art technology, such as 3D printers, recording software and virtual reality, into the hands of patrons of all ages. Through grants and personal donations, the Library Foundation supports the salaries of Studio Guides who teach STEM skills like engineering, coding, video game design, music production, graphic design, and other marketable jobs skills, free to patrons of all ages. Some of the most popular services include STEM workshops for school age children, including a 6-week Maker Camp and a partnership with Dramatic Results for a summer STEM camp.
In 2016, the FLC program expanded its services even further by including a virtual component. Through Brainfuse HelpNow and Brainfuse JobNow, anyone with a library card can access these homework and job search services free from home, school or anywhere with an internet connection. Brainfuse Helpnow is a live tutorial for all ages and levels in math, reading, writing, science and social studies, including SAT preparation. This means that patrons can work with a real live expert in the subject they need any time of day, even from the convenience of their own home or school. Brainfuse JobNow provides library patrons with a host of services to help in every step of the job search process, while making job coaches available to them directly. Both of these services directly address some of the most frequent needs of library patrons.
This online component multiplied the services offered by our Family Learning Centers, causing the program to expand beyond the walls of the original centers. It allowed the library to reprogram the high demand physical space to be used for children’s story time, community events and other programming, and allowed the Library to shift limited staff resources to the branches that need them most. Every year, Library administration reevaluates staffing needs, scheduling Learning Guides at branches with the highest demand. While this does mean that a few branches may not have a dedicated space and Learning Guide on site full-time, the digital aspects of the program mean that more patrons are served than ever before. If a student walks into any of our 12 libraries with a homework question, they will be connected with a qualified library staff member ready to help them.
In 2015, Tesoro (now Andeavor), the LGA Family Foundation and the California Resources Corporation contributed grants to the Library Foundation to launch a Mobile Studio program. The library launched a specially equipped makerspace Studio van to travel around the city and host programs at local elementary schools, parks and street fairs across Long Beach. The Mobile Studio has made its presence known at large community events such as Music Tastes Good, the LBPL Zine Fest, MOLAA’s Day of the Dead Celebration and mini maker fairs. The Mobile Studio also provides classes at 10 parks to students of all ages as part of the Long Beach Be S.A.F.E. initiative during the summer. More than 1,200 participants attended classes, workshops and demonstrations in 2017.
Last year, more than 22,000 FLC sessions were held with more than 11,000 patrons, and 4,300 sessions were hosted in the studios at Main and Michelle Obama Libraries. The demand for these services continues to grow. 2017 saw a 21% increase in total FLC sessions from the previous year. This year, our library aims to continue to broaden their reach. But resources are limited and without the help of Library Foundation donors, this program would not be possible.
We are grateful to those who believed in this initiative enough to make those early investments, and to those who continue to support it year to year. These donors understand that libraries are a good investment in our community. The Family Learning Center program is an incredible example of how libraries can transform communities. Together we can make an extraordinary impact!
Family Learning Center Program Founding Donors
American Honda Employees’ Fund
The LeBurta Atherton Foundation
Bank of America
Margaret B. Brenneman Estate
Diane Jacobus in memory of Helen O’Brien Wade
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (Don Knabe)
Long Beach Energy Department
Charles and Jean Lane
Los Angeles Times Family Fund
The Earl B. and Loraine H. Miller Foundation
The Rudolph J. and Daphne A. Munzer Foundation
Southern California Edison
The Studio and Mobile Studio Founding Donors
California Resources Corporation
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The LGA Family Foundation
Long Beach Community Action Partnership
Long Beach Community Foundation
Women’s City Club of Long Beach