Prince William Public Libraries

Transforming Lives with EBSCO LearningExpress

At a Glance

Prince William Public Libraries
Prince William County, Virginia

Institution Type:   Public Libraries
Related Products:   LearningExpress Library

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Located on the Potomac River, Prince William County is Virginia's second-most populous county with more than 482,000 residents living in and around the City of Manassas. Prince William Public Libraries (PWPL) includes 12 physical branches and a Digital Library that experiences approximately 10,000 virtual visits each month. To support the information and enrichment needs of users, PWPL maintains a collection of more than 530,000 physical items as well as databases, e-books, audiobooks, newspapers and digital magazines.

For nearly two decades, PWPL has subscribed to LearningExpress Library, a robust e-learning platform from EBSCO LearningExpress® that contains skill builders and test preparation resources to help library users prepare for college and careers. Recently, a young man visited Montclair Library to let staff know that he achieved a high score on his ASVAB military entrance exam after using LearningExpress Library practice tests.

Meeting Patron Needs

LearningExpress Library offers a comprehensive selection of interactive online tutorials, practice tests, articles, e-books and high-stakes test preparation modeled after official tests. The platform includes targeted learning centers designed to help students and professionals at all levels of learning achieve their educational and career-related goals.

According to Elizabeth Hensley, assistant chief of PWPL’s material services division, test preparation materials are the most popular LearningExpress Library resources. The SAT® and GRE® test prep for college and graduate school admissions see regular use as do practice exams for those seeking professional licenses in nursing and real estate. In addition, Hensley said, patrons gravitate toward resources to support math and English language skills development.

LearningExpress Library is wonderful for public school and homeschool students, but the Adult Core Skills module is another hidden gem,” Hensley said. “It’s a great resource for somebody who is learning English as a second language or who just wants to brush up on their spelling and grammar skills.”

Lena Gonzalez Berrios, senior librarian at PWPL’s Montclair Library, said she mentions LearningExpress Library to patrons who are seeking information about obtaining U.S. citizenship. The Adult Core Skills learning center includes citizenship test practice and flashcards in both English and Spanish.

Gonzalez Berrios also plans to include LearningExpress Library as a recommended resource in the civics education program she is developing. In addition, she said, the content supports PWPL’s Career Online High School program in which students can graduate with both a high school diploma and a vocational certification.

LearningExpress Library is wonderful for public school and homeschool students, but the Adult Core Skills module is another hidden gem. It’s a great resource for somebody who is learning English as a second language or who just wants to brush up on their spelling and grammar skills.

Elizabeth Hensley
Assistant Chief, Material Services Division
Prince William Public Libraries

One Patron's Success

In addition to supporting college- and career-readiness, LearningExpress Library also contains resources to help those interested in joining the military.

Gonzalez Berrios recalls working at the reference desk one afternoon when a young man named Lawrence came into the library and asked for ASVAB test preparation materials. Gonzalez Berrios promptly showed him how to access LearningExpress Library and navigate to the section containing military practice exams. Once he felt comfortable, she left him to explore the tool on his own.

A few weeks later, Lawrence returned to the library and found Gonzalez Berrios in the stacks. He was excited to tell her that he had passed his ASVAB test, scoring a 93 out of 99 possible points, and would be enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps. Gonzalez Berrios asked Lawrence if she could take his picture and share his achievement with Rachel Johnson, PWPL’s communication services division chief. He agreed and permitted Johnson to post the good news on Twitter (see below).

“What really impressed me about Lawrence was not only that he used LearningExpress Library to study and pass his test with flying colors, but also his heart of service,” Gonzalez Berrios said, adding that one of Lawrence’s friends had also taken the ASVAB test but did not pass. “That day he came back and found me was the day he had scheduled to meet his friend at the library and show him LearningExpress Library. What a tremendous example of serving and mentoring others.”

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Providing a Lifeline

During the coronavirus pandemic, when libraries around the world closed their buildings to the public, people relied more heavily on digital information resources. For PWPL users, LearningExpress Library was a welcome alternative when print copies of test prep books were checked out (or being quarantined).

What’s more, Gonzalez Berrios noted, LearningExpress Library content is updated regularly, whereas print books quickly become outdated. “That's the other beauty of accessing materials online,” she said, adding that she tells people that PWPL’s Digital Library the system’s thirteenth branch. “Our Digital Library is a nice complement to what we can offer in our physical buildings.”

The content in LearningExpress Library has also been helpful to people who became unemployed during the pandemic. Gonzalez Berrios called it a “lifeline” for those looking to develop the knowledge and workplace skills needed to find a new job, change careers or pursue personal interests.

Hensley agreed. “We are committed to lifelong learning for our communities,” she said. “All our resources support that — whether they’re for professional, educational or recreational purposes. I think what we really want to do is help people improve their quality of life. That’s our mission, and we're able to do that by helping them earn a degree, get a certification, get a job. That's why we've had this product for 18 years. It's hard to imagine not having it, actually.”

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