Baker & Taylor this week announced a new strategic partnership with education and training provider Penn Foster that will provide working adults with skills development and training programs via their local public library.

Specifically, the partnership will make Penn Foster’s extensive library of “competency-based, career-aligned courses and playlists, including foundational career readiness skills, soft skills, and degree and certificate programs,” available to public library patrons through Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform.

Penn Foster is a well-known provider of education and training services, including diploma, certificate, and degree programs, as well as “personalized academic and career coaching.” Partnering with Penn Foster seems a natural fit with B&T, given parent company Follett’s reach in the education sector, and B&T’s recently launched Axis 360 Community Sharing Program, which links public libraries and schools with an efficient platform to share digital content.

“As lifelong learning becomes an imperative for workers across the economic spectrum, libraries have a critical role to play, both in terms of providing the public with greater access to educational opportunities, but also as a way to leverage the expertise librarians bring to digital fluency,” said Ron Stefanski, managing director at Penn Foster, in a statement.

B&T officials noted that in this age of rapid technological change, libraries are increasingly serving as training hubs within their communities, and that research suggests that a growing number of library patrons attend classes or educational programs at their public library—a trend the new partnership with Penn Foster addresses.

“By helping public libraries provide seamless access to skills training for the most in-demand jobs, we are creating new opportunities for career mobility that can be accessed by the individuals who need it most,” said Amandeep Kochar, executive v-p of Public Library Sales and Technology at Baker & Taylor. “One of the primary goals of our library partners is to help patrons succeed in their careers by fostering an environment of lifelong learning.”

Steven V. Potter, executive director of the Mid-Continent Public Library, which serves more than 800,000 citizens in Greater Kansas City, said the program will be a welcome addition. "Library customers are increasingly turning to the library as a resource to 'upskill' and gain the tools to compete in the ever-changing economy,” Potter said, in a release. “As our customers increasingly pursue self-driven employment opportunities, including gig economy work and even traditional skilled labor expertise, this new partnership will provide unprecedented access to mobile-friendly, self-paced learning opportunities designed for working learners and focused on today’s most in-demand skills.”