Moving PA Forward
by Melissa Rowse
North Central Library District Consultant
That’s what forty public libraries in the North Central Library District are doing. The district covers 11 counties from Potter County in the northwest corner to Columbia County in the southeast corner. At the community, regional, and state levels, libraries are collaborating with individuals and organizations to improve the economic and social lives of their residents. This state-wide program was created to market and advocate how libraries play an intricate role in everyone’s life. PA Forward is a multi-year awareness campaign carrying the message: when leveraged properly, our libraries can help solve some of Pennsylvania’s biggest economic and social challenges. Libraries today are agile institutions serving real-life needs. They hold the key to powering progress and elevating the quality of life for all Pennsylvania residents.
What is PA Forward and how do libraries accomplish this?
PA Forward redefines and refocuses the role of library service in our Commonwealth within a context of five essential literacies to help residents must succeed as citizens, parents, students, employers, and consumers.
In an era when the public is demanding greater efficiency and program consolidation at all levels of government, public libraries serve as models of cost-effective service. Libraries stretch the public’s resources through sharing materials, computers, technology infrastructure, and expertise. By their own definition, libraries serve the public broadly and efficiently.
The Five Literacies:
The challenge: Today, one in eight Pennsylvanians lacks the ability to read a newspaper or brochure.
The opportunity: Libraries can push Pennsylvania to achieve one of the highest literacy rates in the country, and a trained and skilled workforce equals a growing economy, higher tax base, and a more literate population.
The challenge: Today, nearly a third of students use Google as the information source for their research. The opportunity: Libraries can help all Pennsylvanians learn how to use online resources and current technology to improve their education, enhance their job skills, and to fully participate in a digital society.
Civic and Social Literacy
The challenge: Today less than half of all Americans can name all the branches of government.
The opportunity: Libraries can play an important role in helping citizens have the knowledge and skills they need to participate and contribute effectively to their community, government, and society; and to connect with one another through discourse.
The challenge: Nearly half of all adults have difficulty understanding and using health information.
The opportunity: Libraries can play an important role in helping citizens manage their own well-being and empower them to be effective partners with their healthcare providers so they live longer, more productive lives.
The challenge: More than 40 percent of U.S. adults gave themselves a C, D, or F on knowledge of personal finance.
The opportunity: Libraries can help citizens become informed consumers and guide individuals, small businesses, and other organization to contribute to the economic vitality of their community through innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development.
Each of the 40 public libraries in our area offer services, programs, and activities tailored to the promotion of these five literacies. Come in and visit your local library for more information on PA Forward.