In Susan Orlean’s bestselling book about the Los Angeles library, COHS helps breathe life into the notion of the library “as the people’s university”.

In The New York Times bestseller The Library Book, Susan Orlean chronicles the history of the Los Angeles Public Library, since the 1986 fire that devoured hundreds of thousands of books. She explores the crucial, often complex, role that libraries play in our communities, and the way that role has transformed in the last 30+ years. In her interviews with City Librarian John F. Szabo, Career Online High School’s part in that transformation comes to life:

“In 2014, Szabo had established Career Online High School—COHS—which is the first accredited library-based high school program in the United States. Through the library’s website, adults who had not gotten their high school diploma could take any of the nine hundred COHS online classes for free, and graduate with a diploma rather than a high school equivalency certificate. Szabo frequently preaches the gospel of the library as the people’s university, and with COHS, he had managed to make good on that notion. It was an idea so obvious and so well suited to a library setting that right after Szabo launched it, fifty other libraries around the country, inspired by the Los Angeles program, began their own adult high school courses.

Launching COHS had been one of the most satisfying aspects of his time in Los Angeles, Szabo said. Just a few weeks after he returned from his trips from Toronto and Ohio, he would be officiating at the first graduation ceremony of COHS, where twenty-two adults would receive their high school diplomas, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.”

[The Los Angeles Public Library has now seen over 200 COHS graduates!]


Praise for The Library Book and the 21st-Century Library

In The Wall Street Journal’s book review, Harvard professor Jane Kamensky says The Library Book “soars as urban history.” She commends Szabo’s innovation and leadership, writing that he “leaps from Ms. Orlean’s pages like a superhero without a cape.”

“Under Mr. Szabo, Los Angeles has embraced the fathomless mission of the great urban library system in the 21st century….Branches provide services and succor to the city’s enormous homeless population, teach sex education to at-risk teenagers and grant high-school diplomas—real ones, not GEDs—online….” [emphasis added]

The acclaimed book is a Washington Post Top 10 Book of the Year, a New York Times Bestseller, and New York Times Notable Book of 2018. Read more about the book and learn where to purchase it.


 Orlean, Susan, The Library Book, Simon & Schuster, October 2018.
 The Wall Street Journal, The Library Book’ Review: The People’s Palace, Jane Kamensky, October 11, 2018.


Career Online High School was developed in 2012 through a partnership between ed2go, a division of Cengage that provides students with online continuing education and career training, and Smart Horizons Career Online Education in an effort to provide affordable, career-based online education opportunities for the millions of adults in the United States without high school diplomas. In 2014, the program was adapted for the public library market by Gale, a Cengage company. For more information, visit