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PALS One Year Later – Star Library Program Pilot Success

PA Forward Gold Star Libraries logoSubmitted by:  Joann Eichenlaub, Assistant Director, Roger and Peggy Madigan Library, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Williamsport, PA and 2015 Graduate of PALS (PaLA Academy of Leadership Studies)


The PALS Branding Team Mission
Anne Bramblett
, Melissa Foltz, Elizabeth Shomaker, Ed Wolf and Joann Eichenlaub comprised the 2015 PALS branding team who would create a recognition program for those libraries which were incorporating the PA Forward brand into their programming and activities.  

PA Forward Initiative – In a Few Words
PA Forward identifies five essential literacies that will enable all citizens of Pennsylvania to be better consumers and students, to make more informed decisions about their healthcare, to be contributors to their communities, to have the skill to sift through the onslaught of so much readily accessible information and to be able to identify authoritative, unbiased sources regardless of the medium used. These five keys to successful lives are basic, information, civic and social, health and financial literacies. 

PA Forward Star Library Program – Introduction
The PA Forward Star Library Program was designed to showcase and recognize all types of libraries that incorporate PA Forward and the five key literacies, which have been identified as essential to the success of all individuals, into their programming activities, displays and events, and to provide incentives to celebrate the success of those libraries using PA Forward to create new partnerships, develop broader community support, and ultimately establish influence and credibility as a unified, collective, powerful voice for the benefit of all libraries. This unique program was also developed to help libraries demonstrate that their library is a part of the larger PA Forward statewide initiative that is powering progress and elevating the quality of life for all Pennsylvania citizens.

Identifying the Challenges
The goal was to make this program easily manageable and make the actual implementation fairly seamless for any library, regardless of type, staffing levels, funding or available technology skills. Additionally, the team recognized that the amount of time required to participate would be a factor because many libraries only had one or two staff persons to manage the typical day-to-day activities, let alone adding a new concept to the table. The team also realized while some libraries were fortunate enough to have larger staffs, they too had other responsibilities and duties to attend to and needed to keep that in mind.  It always came back to these main questions:

  • Why should libraries participate? How would it benefit them?
  • What would motivate them to participate? What kinds of incentives could be offered? Who would pay for it?
  • What would the criteria be for a library to be recognized as a PA Forward Star Library?
  • How would it be delivered to libraries? How could it be marketed to libraries?

Ultimately, this program needed to not only be fun and exciting, but rewarding. This program needed to be a vehicle of empowerment, showcasing libraries to their surrounding communities and to their stakeholders! This needed to be a winning system that benefited everyone!

Instilling a little competiveness and plenty of bragging rights that would bring attention to the libraries’ stakeholders and communities, touting the value of their services and resources was another element to incorporate into the plan.

It was also important the program be the vehicle for libraries to become one powerful, collective voice…to be a part of a forward-thinking PA Forward movement that would open doors, demonstrate their libraries’ value and through that, motivate stakeholders, legislators, boards and communities to recognize, support, and yes, provide funding necessary to sustain their existence. At the same time, give libraries the ability to better serve their communities by creating valuable connections and partnerships as well as create exciting and relevant programming, winning all around in a self-sustaining, perpetual cycle. Now, how do you package and deliver this into an idea that the libraries will sign onto? 

Developing an Idea
The small committee brainstormed to develop separate lists based on the previously mentioned questions and intended goals.

Within a very short time, the rudiments of the program were framed and presented to the members of the PA Forward Steering Committee. They were blown away – in a surprising and great way.  And, frankly, the members of the team were somewhat shocked by their response…apparently they had just accomplished in a few short months what was thought would take a year. Not only had they accomplished this task, but they had successfully met their PALS project goal in the process.

Then, opportunity knocked and the pilot project was born.   

The Pilot, Incentives and Results
June Houghtaling
, North Central District Consultant, suggested that her 40 district libraries could be the pilot group to test the program. This was an opportunity to give the program a trial run and see what worked and what didn’t work.

The best method of delivering the pilot program to the libraries was discussed, and it was decided a USB wristband drive would work best – all the information the library needed would be placed right in their hands…or around their wrists!  Packets were prepared and delivered to each library.  The pilot launched early February of this year.  There were two virtual training sessions and one in-person training session between February and March.

Operating on a very limited budget meant being creative in determining what incentives could be offered to this brave group of libraries willing to give the pilot a test drive so the program would hopefully be launched statewide in the fall.

Incentives for the pilot group included the following:

  • Letters were sent directly to each participating library’s County Commissioner by the district consultant.
  • Press releases, also provided by the district consultant, were distributed to each library’s local media outlets.  
  • A certificate noting level of achievement was developed and later presented to each of the libraries at a recognition program at the West Branch Chapter Spring Workshop.
  • These same participating libraries would also be announced and recognized during the 2016 PaLA conference and annual business meeting.
  • PA Forward Star Libraries would be featured in an upcoming PaLA publication.
  • Participating libraries also received a USB wristband drive, imprinted with the PA Forward logo, which included all of the documents they needed to successfully participate in the Star Library Program.

Of the 40 libraries, 19 participated.  Each of the participating libraries earned the First Level (Bronze) Star, 13 reached varying Silver Star levels, and 10 earned the ultimate Gold Star Level within approximately four – five months.

The original end date for the pilot was May 6th, but once libraries started working through the action list, they really climbed onboard and were enthusiastic and wanted to keep working toward the next level. So, the decision was made to extend the pilot through June 30th. The following table lists the libraries’ participation levels and completion dates.

What’s Next?
Anyone who wants to learn more about the PA Forward Star Library Program and the results of the pilot should consider attending the Reaching for the Stars – How to Become a Recognized PA Forward Star Library session at the PA Library Association Conference on Tuesday, October 18, from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. – hope to see you there! Check out the conference packet information or visit for further details.

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