To help celebrate the impact of literacy and learning year-round, the Pennsylvania Department of Education's (PDE) Office of Commonwealth Libraries (OCL) is highlighting the dynamic role public libraries play in their communities.
"Large and small, Pennsylvania's libraries enrich their communities in unique and meaningful ways," said Susan Banks, State Librarian and Acting Deputy Secretary for the OCL. "Librarians and library staff are creative problem solvers that determinedly support the diverse communities that their facilities serve."
Libraries continue to evolve, innovate, and improve access to materials, programs, and resources. Staff create pathways, find ways to remove barriers, and support learners of all ages.
Throughout the pandemic, librarians and library staff continued to create dynamic opportunities to ensure they could connect with their communities and engage them in fun, meaningful ways. "When we could not offer in-person story times, my children's librarian and I recorded story times at places like the Hershey Butterfly Garden and Mt. Gretna Environmental Center," said Dee L. Neff, Library Director at the Annville Free Library in Lebanon County. "We read from several farms throughout our service area, too, including a dairy farm, where we invited the county's Dairy Princess and her court to read stories and present activities virtually."
Libraries adapted existing systems and structures to ensure they could support their communities throughout the pandemic. From outdoor programming, to grab-and-go opportunities, to self-check-out, to curbside pick-up, and much more, libraries continue to focus on creating equitable access and providing an array of critical resources and services. "Our library is constantly changing and evolving for our patrons," said Melissa Rowse, Director at Degenstein Community Library in Northumberland County. "I am very proud that we continue to meet the needs of our community."
In addition to serving as community anchors, libraries collaborate with local businesses and organizations to expand their reach and provide collaborative support to individuals and families. "We are working with Wayne Tomorrow, a collaboration created by Wayne County to improve, enhance, and develop our local infrastructure," said Lynn Scramuzza, Director at Hamlin Community Library in Wayne County. "Our library, along with another in the county, were named pilot community hubs. We are engaging with other affiliated organizations to create access to information about agriculture, businesses, jobs, housing, transportation, health and wellness, and communication improvements. We anticipate continued community growth and success through this initiative."
Many libraries coordinated Summer Reading Programs this summer, pivoting from prior structures to ensure the health and safety of their communities.
"We are incredibly proud of our library's Summer Reading Program," said Judith Haylett, Library Assistant at Margaret Shontz Memorial Library in Crawford County. "When planning the summer reading program during the pandemic last winter, our library director scheduled all events to take place outdoors at a local park. We have more than doubled our previous summer reading programming attendance, and regularly have more than 140 attendees. We have received so much appreciation from members of our community, and have welcomed many new faces to our library, which has been such a highlight for us!"
There's still time to borrow a few good summer reads from your local library before school starts. The American Library Association offers several summer reading lists to help keep kids engaged in reading throughout the summer and year-round. Ask your local librarian for recommendations, too!
The Office of Commonwealth Libraries within the Pennsylvania Department of Education supports, develops, and provides library services for learning and advancement. For more information on the State Library of Pennsylvania, visit their website and follow them on Twitter.