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Academic Value and PA Forward

January 23, 2013

The new PA Forward initiative, officially launched in February 2012, continues to have a relatively low level of participation by academic librarians.  We want to change that! In order for PA  Forward to be a strong and effective advocacy initiative, all types of librarians must participate. And to participate, they first must recognize the benefits of a program that clearly demonstrates the value that libraries provide to their communities, whether students on their campuses or citizens in their towns.

How can we demonstrate and talk about that value?  One way is take a look at the recent academic library contributions to the PA Forward Best Practices for Literacy database.  The University Library System at University of Pittsburgh added a post about the PA Digital Library which they curate and host. The Pennsylvania Digital Library (PADL) is a state-wide metadata repository for digital resources created by Pennsylvania libraries, museums, educational institutions, and other cultural heritage organizations. This search tool increases exposure to Pennsylvania’s digital resources and makes them more available on the open Web at

Ellysa S Cahoy posted a description of the Central PA K-16 Information Literacy Network which Penn State hosts. The network connects over thirty area schools and public  and academic librarians in a joint effort to enhance students’ library research skills and foster collaboration between libraries at all educational levels. It provides professional development opportunities for librarians to network, share ideas, and learn best practices for encouraging and building information and digital literacies in their students.

Ellysa also posted information on the Digital Navigator Program In which Penn State collaborated with Commonwealth Libraries and the public libraries in the Altoona, Central and Johnstown Districts to purchase three mobile Digital Media Kits consisting of digital cameras, Ipads & Macs that can be moved within the three districts for use during online staff workshops and then workshops with library patrons in a train-and-equip-the-trainer approach. The public librarians involved in this project will use the multimedia kit to hold specialized workshops on digital camera usage, iPad basics, and digital storytelling in their local communities.

Linda Neyer at Bloomsburg University added information on The General Library Research Tutorial her team created which consists of 8 online modules designed to help first-year students develop the necessary information-seeking and evaluation skills for their general education courses, freely accessible at  It’s also suitable for anyone wanting a refresher in conducting online research.

Why is the PA Forward Best Practices for Literacy database so important? We need strong examples to share with our public officials, legislators, campus administrators and the general public to demonstrate the multiple ways that academic libraries provide value to their campuses and surrounding communities.

The following is a partial list of some of the activities in which academic librarians regularly participate that could easily be included in the best practices database. Each supports one (or more) of the five PA Forward literacies: information literacy, financial literacy, health literacy, basic literacy, and social & civic literacy:

  1. Library involvement in an institution’s open access repository or online open access journals created and/or edited by faculty members
  2. Pedagogies that work or assessment techniques that measure student learning outcomes of importance to the institution
  3. Library participation in One Book, One Campus events
  4. Online tutorials that engage students and provide assessment of student learning
  5. Library participation in first-year experience programs and events
  6. Library collaborations with student life departments
  7. Librarian contributions to the work of significant campus committees
  8. Programming created and hosted by the library which is designed for the campus community and/or the public at large
  9. Other creative ways you reach out to faculty, staff and students on campus!

We know there are many academic librarians doing similar, creative things on their campuses, significantly contributing to their institutional mission and students’ education, and we want to hear about it! Please take a moment to add a description of your work to the PA Forward Best Practices for Literacy database. It’s very easy. Just go to our online form at The database is moderated by the PaLA Public Relations/Marketing Committee, so it will take a day or two to appear. If you have any questions, feel free to contact either Debbie Malone (debbie DOT malone AT desales DOT edu) or Linda Neyer (crdpala AT gmail).  We want to hear from you!

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