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PA Forward: Building a Collective Voice for Libraries

— Submitted by Kathy Silks, Project Manager, PA Forward | Pennsylvania Libraries

PA Forward 5 Literacies logo

2014 was a banner year for PA Forward, thanks to the dedication, strategic thinking, and very hard work of so many people:  the project’s Steering Committee and its seven subcommittees, five literacy teams involving our 34 organizational partners, the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, PALS participants and mentors, and library staff and supporters all across the state.  We’ve made wonderful progress in the ways PA Forward is building a collective voice for libraries.  Let me share a few highlights:

More libraries are using PA Forward’s visual and language branding effectively to build that strong, consistent, collective voice.
PA Forward has given librarians the tools to communicate their value and the competencies to increase their community connections and impact.  That’s accomplished through extensive training opportunities (workshops, webinars, and Annual Conference sessions), plus an expanding database of literacy-building programs and resources, an updated communications toolkit, a growing social media presence, and customizable monthly press releases that showcase library resources.  And we’ll have more exciting tools to share with you in 2015 to build your visibility and impact.

We’re making progress in building a collective voice for libraries through partnerships
Currently 34 corporations, government agencies, statewide associations, and not-for-profit organizations.  Our partners are introducing new audiences to the 21
st century library and its essential role in powering Pennsylvania’s progress:

  • Several Comcast Newsmakers interviews have focused on libraries’ role in increasing literacy levels.
  • Our involvement in the PA Department of Health’s Healthy PA Public Health Summit and Health Improvement Partnership Program, as well as the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of PA’s Community Conversations, made healthcare leaders aware of libraries as health literacy resources.  PA Forward is now an official Department of Health “stakeholder,” with opportunities to participate in the department’s health improvement planning.
  • The PA Municipal League included a chapter on libraries in their new civics e-book for teens and promoted their affiliation with PA Forward in their Municipal Reporter magazine.
  • PA Forward joined the PA Jump$tart Coalition of statewide financial literacy leaders
  • PA Forward’s participation in the Office of Commonwealth Libraries’ nine trustee town hall meetings connected us with library ambassadors throughout the state.
  • Partners also work with us to present literacy events, public education campaigns, and librarian training.  Examples include:
  • Speak Up for Libraries, a statewide series of appearances by nearly fifty authors and illustrators at local libraries
  • Engaging the Next Generation of Civic Leaders, a one-day conference exploring ways to prepare teens and young adults for civic engagement
  • The second annual PA Forward Information Literacy Summit, that shared curriculum developments and other innovations with academic and school librarians and educators
  • ACA-readiness training for librarians
  • Providing financial education experts for library programs
  • Resources and tools for a year-long healthy living awareness campaign with monthly themes.

PA Forward’s website, positioning language, and impressive list of partners are resonating with leaders in Pennsylvania and beyond.
We’re using an expanded arsenal of dynamic “library stories” to help leaders understand libraries’ vital role in building essential literacy skills.  We presented PA Forward at a PA House Republicans “Beyond Poverty” roundtable that explored resources to help our most economically challenged citizens, and we provided input on proposed legislation requiring financial education in high schools.  PA Forward is also attracting increased interest from the national library community, and we’re committed to finding a way to share PA Forward and its power with our colleagues in other states.  In addition, we’re proud to announce that PA Forward will be profiled on a new International Federation of Library Association website promoting library advocacy models.  We’re putting Pennsylvania on the map!

PA Forward continues to be a PaLA priority, a vital part of its strategic plan and essential to our future success as it elevates the perception of libraries and their importance.  As we prepare for an even more successful year ahead, we need your active participation in building that collective voice for libraries:

  • Use PA Forward’s visual and language branding in marketing your library, its programs, and its value to the community
  • Build strong literacy partnerships
  • Share your stories about the impact of your literacy-building initiatives
  • Arrange PA Forward training for your library staff and volunteers
  • Join one of our committees (we work hard and we have fun).

We’re very grateful for all the ways you continue to move PA Forward.  Best wishes for a very successful year ahead as you help Pennsylvanians successfully meet the demands of life.

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