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The Seattle Public Library continues to innovate with technology, and the latest evidence is a grant to develop an online, librarian-led referral service to help patrons improve their skills.

YourNextSkillThe John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its twelfth Knight News Challenge on Libraries, has announced that it is funding 22 projects. Seattle’s $35,000 grant is one of 14 for “early-stage ideas” through the Knight Prototype Fund, “which helps innovators take media and information projects from idea to demo.”

The idea, in this case, is Your Next Skill, focused on using librarians as personal learning advisors. Jennifer Yeung, project lead at SPL, expects that as a result of the grant, the library will have “a web interface where patrons will enter a few questions about their desired learning interest; a staff interface where staff can claim questions, work on draft responses, have access to reporting functions and a database of resources,” and end up with a learning plan displayed online for the patron. That plan could include recommended materials, classes and instructors.

The grant period runs through August and the money will be used for testing and basic development. Yeung says they’ll gauge success of the platform and patron demand, after which, “We hope to seek funding to further boost the web platform so that we can begin to offer personalized log in screens.”

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