By handing out bronze, silver, and gold stars, the Pennsylvania Library Association is recognizing libraries implementing an initiative to improve the state and its residents.
To help recognize libraries working to improve their communities, the Pennsylvania Library Association has introduced the Star Library Program as an outgrowth of its existing PA Forward initiative.
Launched five years ago, PA Forward aims to improve Pennsylvania’s citizens, communities, economy, and workforce through library services. The new Star Library Program recognizes to what extent libraries have embraced and carried out this initiative.
“So many libraries are doing programming, are doing community outreach—it’s a vital part of what they do—but we needed a way for it to make sense,” PaLA Executive Director Christi Buker said. “So PA Forward is the framework for those community outreach programs, but then Star Library was taking it one step further in helping libraries recognize the significance of everyone being on the same page, but also promoting further how we’re helping the community by recognizing different levels of activities.”
To participate in PA Forward, libraries offer community outreach programs based on five literacy areas [PDF]: basic literacy, information literacy or personal development through research, civic and social literacy or participation in local government, health literacy or well-being management, and financial literacy or economic understanding.
Based on the number and types of actions they’ve taken to implement PA Forward, libraries are then awarded bronze-, silver-, or gold-star status. These actions include informing library staff and the community about PA Forward, conducting trainings for staff on the literacy areas, adding new programs, partnering with other local groups on programs, and providing professional development opportunities for librarians.
The levels then offer an incentive for libraries to participate, “that when you start saying and you advertise on your front door or in a poster, ‘I’m a library that achieved star level gold,’ then that obviously says something to the community, too, that shows comparatively this library is working to meet the needs of its community,” Buker said.
The program began with a small pilot of 19 libraries last spring. While all were able to achieve a star status, most achieved gold within the course of the pilot. Now the program has been rolled out to all 456 Pennsylvania public libraries and their 629 outlets, which can apply for star status online by uploading materials like posters or registration flyers as proof of implementing PA Forward.
“Libraries offer so much more than we ever could have imagined, and we need to recognize and be proud of what they’re doing,” Buker said. “And I think Star Library status gives them that opportunity to be proud of the good work that they’re doing as well as help the community recognize all the other parts that they’re doing.”