November 28, 2022

Library Project a Winner in Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition


A plan to reenvision libraries and serve youth has been tapped for funding in the fourth Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition.

“Preparing Librarians to Meet the Needs of 21st Century Teens,” a proposal of the Young Adult Library Services Association  (YALSA), was among the winners announced Thursday at the Digital Media and Learning Conference (DML) held in San Francisco, CA, March 1–3.

The competition is part of a large-scale effort to create a digital badge system for lifelong learning and is sponsored by Mozilla, developer of the Firefox Web browser, with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC (the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory).

“We’re excited and honored to be a part of the fourth DML competition,” says Beth Yoke, YALSA’s executive director, who attended the conference. “The last two days we’ve spent getting to know the other teams and the many innovative ways they envision using badges.” YALSA’s project was among 30 winners selected from an earlier round of 91 finalists.

Courtesy Mozilla

Badges are being proposed as an alternative credentialing system intended to recognize all kinds of skills and competencies and validate learning across environments—in person and online—from afterschool and job-training programs to museums and libraries and beyond.

Proponents say digital badges validate achievement, with the potential to inspire learners of all ages to work toward other competencies. Skeptics see the effort as commodifying learning and another scheme toward the ‘gamification’ of education. But it’s still early days for Mozilla’s Open Badges Project, which gives any organization the capability to create badges for the Web.

Youth Librarians can Earn Badges

YALSA’s badges will be based on its Competencies for Serving Youth, national guidelines for librarians who serve teens. The competencies are divided into seven broad content areas. YALSA and project partner Badgeville will create four badges for each area, the first three of which will demonstrate proficiency of a specific skill or topic. The fourth badge will demonstrate mastery of a skill or topic. Librarians and library workers who opt in to the program can participate at their own pace by engaging in a range of activities.

“As learners gain skills and earn badges, they will be recognized by their peers as experts in their field and can move into the role of mentor by answering questions from peers and earning points for doing so,” Jack Martin, YALSA president-elect said in the winning presentation this week. “This program is exciting because it breaks down longstanding geographic and physical barriers, allowing librarians and library staff to connect with one another based on interests or achievements, and build communities of practice that will help them thrive in their work.”

Winners of the badges competition will receive grants ranging from $25,000 to $175,000. Other awardees include: My Girl Scout Sash is an App (Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, MentorMob); BadgesWork for Vets (Department of Veterans Affairs); 4-H/USDA Robotics Digital Badges (USDA); and Disney-Pixar Wilderness Explorers Badges (The Walt Disney Company).

YALSA’s proposal requested $81,000, says Yoke, “but I don’t know yet if we were funded the full amount. We are really looking forward to working with our partner, Badgeville, to create a brand new way to provide continuing education to librarians.”

“We are very pleased to include the Young Adult Library Services Association among the winners of the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition. Libraries play a critical role in providing learning opportunities to people of all ages,” says An-Me Chung, Associate Director of Education for the MacArthur Foundation.




Kathy Ishizuka About Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka (, @kishizuka on Twitter) is Executive Editor of School Library Journal.