On Monday, I attended the formal launch of an exciting new initiative here in Pennsylvania–PA FORWARD. PA Forward is the first statewide initiative–perhaps the first of its kind in the country (although don’t quote me on that)–conceived by the Pennsylvania Library Association as a 21st century literacies initiative, which recognizes that:

With the right support, libraries are ideally positioned to become the community centers of information, technology, and learning that will fuel educational and economic opportunity for all of our citizens.

The foundation of the initiative is the five literacies that are essential to a successful population:

The initiative has partnered with a vast array of professional organizations, businesses, non-profits, state agencies, and more, including honorary board chair Pennsylvania author Lisa Scottoline, to form an alliance committed to powering a new level of knowledge across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. From the Web site:

  As our state and nation struggle with economic shifts, some permanent, we all ask, “How will Pennsylvania build a better future, one of job growth, opportunity, and community vitality?” 

Those who work at or with Pennsylvania’s academic, public, school, and special libraries already know that an educated public with better access to information is key. Libraries have been at the center of Pennsylvania’s communities, providing the critical connections.

Now it’s time to let the rest of Pennsylvania know – and ensure that libraries take their rightful place as leaders of a vision that requires a unique combination of new technology, community access, and commitment to learning.

Please take a few minutes and explore the Web site to find out more.

What I love about this initiative above all else is that there is no gimmick here. This is not a marketing campaign. It’s not even an advocacy campaign either, although there’s a component of that. This is a well thought out plan of action to move Pennsylvania, its citizens, and its libraries forward well into the 21st century and beyond. It positions libraries, all libraries–public, academic, school, and special– to do what they do best–act as a community center for knowledge, information, and to provide the tools necessary to succeed. There is no single-minded focus on digital technology. There’s no angst over ebooks. It is a rock solid attempt to position libraries as much more than just a place to get the newest, hottest format.

Find out how you can get involved. There is a media kit available on the Web site, which includes literature that explains the five literacies and their importance to all citizens. The kit also lists the initiative partners, advisory board, and contains a profile of honorary chair Lisa Scottoline.

As with any new program, I’m sure it will take some time for PA Forward to take hold. However, I have high hopes that it will succeed and that it will make a difference. It beats sitting around and wringing our hands over publishers that don’t want to play fair with libraries.