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Conversational Language Program Earns National Award for Enhancing Customer Experience

Language class enjoys French pastry party.

Learning a language has never been more fun, thanks to the immersion-style language-learning classes being offered at the library.  The successful program, which began in the fall of 2014, earned the library the top 2015 Top Innovator Award in Customer Experience from the Urban Libraries Council. The award recognizes innovations in enhancing the customer experience and using digital technology to enhance programs and services. Library Director Barbara Gubbin received the award on behalf of the library in San Jose, California, on June 26.

Transparent French class at Pablo Creek Regional.

Jacksonville Public Library was recognized for its innovative approach in implementing the Transparent Language database as a language immersion series, rather than promoting it as just a database or an online product at the library. The language program is incorporated into a three-part series, and the total language immersion experience includes everything from using technology and conversing with a native speaker to sampling cuisine, exploring dance, culture and more. Since implementing the new approach, classes have grown from 250 customers to more than 600.

Language Class Spanish display at Pablo Creek Regional.

“Students learn so much more when the facilitator is a native speaker,” said E-Services Assistant Manager Eric Soriano. “We offer a little bit of everything, so they get a fuller experience. Imagine if you’re planning a trip to France, you can learn some basics before you go. We use the online database as a building block but the classes offer much more than that. Classes are fairly small and everyone feels welcome. It’s always fun.”

Students can take what they learn and practice at home using the online learning-language program or on the go through the program’s app. Many are amazed to learn that the program is free and all they need to access the online software is their own library card.

Class series have been offered in Spanish, French, Mandarin and Tagalog.  Spanish, French and Hebrew classes will be held over the summer, and other foreign languages are planned for the future. The classes have been well attended.

Classes are first come, first served. If you are interested in taking a conversational language class, you may check for upcoming classes in the computer and technology class catalog or email

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Jacksonville Public Library