News for Pennsyslvania Libraries

Beth Cackowski
by Beth Cackowski

The PA Forward Health Literacy team made incredible strides in 2014 with regards to making libraries part of the healthcare conversation in Pennsylvania. Jody Cole, chair of team, told me about some of the breakthroughs they have made with team partners in the previous year.

At the beginning of 2014, the team began their work framing it around National Health Observances, monthly health observances that would enable them to promote health literacy and information. In working through the monthly observances, they began to see potential for other partnerships, both as small groups within the larger group and with those outPA Forward 5 Literaciesside. Members of the Health Literacy team facilitated and participated in panel discussions at conferences and webinars geared towards librarians and library staff about PA Forward, health resources for librarians, the ACA in Libraries and poverty simulations. PA Forward presented at Out of the Shadows, one-day conferences in Scranton and Hershey for library staff about how to help people searching for mental health information.

At the same time, Health Literacy team members were developing relationships outside of the library profession. PA Forward represented libraries at the Pennsylvania Telehealth Roundtable and participated in the Regional Health Literacy Coalition’s annual meeting. Here they discussed what a statewide effort for health literacy might encompass. In addition, PA Forward project manager Kathy Silks joined State Librarian Stacey Aldrich and librarians Sue Williams, Mary Bear Shannon, and Julie Kuchta for a panel discussion, Public Libraries are Partners in Healthy Communities, at the PA Department of Health’s Healthy PA Summit. That presentation led to other opportunities and partnerships, including a PA Forward webinar conducted for the Health Improvement Partnership Program, part of the PA Department of Health. Because of these efforts, the Department has now identified PA Forward as one of its stakeholders. Libraries are becoming part of the discussion on how to make healthier communities in Pennsylvania. According to Kathy Silks, “this really puts libraries at the table in state level discussions about the future of healthcare. PA Forward is really changing how significant players in the healthcare field can work with consumers through libraries.”

When asked what is on the agenda for the PA Forward Health Literacy team in 2015, Jody Cole explained that they are working on figuring out how to keep the momentum going and how to evaluate all of the good work that is being done in PA libraries.

The current partners on the Health Literacy team are:

American Academy of Pediatrics, Pennsylvania Chapter

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania

Giant Food Stores

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania

National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region

Pennsylvania Department of Education / Office of Commonwealth Libraries

Pennsylvania Department of Health


Librarians from the Shippensburg Public Library, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and the North Pocono Public Library lead the team.

Is your library also working with healthcare agencies to make a healthier community? Share your successful partnership stories on PA Forward’s Best Practices for Literacy spreadsheet.