Knox library pursues ‘five star’ status

Clarion News Writer

Stars come in all shapes and sizes. In commercial businesses, they are used to signify customer satisfaction and company success. Star status is usually reserved for restaurants, hotels, resorts and libraries?

As part of the PA Forward Star Library Program, Knox Public Library the only participating library in Clarion County achieved three of five silver stars Aug. 13.

It’s going for its fourth and fifth stars this fall.

By the end of this year, assistant library director Brenda Beikert hopes to have earned a gold star.

Knox Public Library is one of 125 libraries in Pennsylvania participating in PA Forward. The program (which Knox joined in November 2017) is a way for Pennsylvanian libraries to unite in a shared vision of helping people succeed as citizens, family members and consumers.

With the right support, libraries can become community centers of information, technology and learning. They can fuel educational and economic opportunity for all citizens.

PA Forward recognizes that potential. By having libraries complete similar tasks in unique ways, it gives them a voice in considerations for legislative budgeting, helps market programs to a wider audience and creates community partnerships.

“(It’s) just a way to connect all the libraries,” said Beikert.

Five literacies

PA Forward is broken down into five categories, or “literacies:” basic, informational, civic or social, financial and health.

By completing tasks in each of these literacies, libraries move through the PA Forward program and earn stars.

Beikert noted she wanted to start the program years ago when she worked at Foxburg Free Library. The process for getting started was lengthy, however, and she found herself intimidated by the tasks.

“But once I got started with it, it was so much easier than I thought it would be,” she said.

To earn stars, libraries complete a series of “actions” at each literacy level. Each action must inform the community on a particular topic.

Basic literacy means the library must provide programs that help residents achieve the highest literacy rates in the country; generate a better-trained, more skilled workforce; and grow the area’s tax base and population.

Informational literacy aims to help residents learn how to use online resources and current technology to improve their education. This enhances their job skills and teaches them how to participate in a digital society.

Civic literacy gives community members the knowledge and skills they need to improve their lives and contribute to their communities (particularly via civil discourse).

Health literacy shows residents how to actively manage their lifestyles and their families’ through effective partnership with health care providers, thus reducing health care cost.

Financial literacy helps residents become informed consumers. It guides individuals, small businesses and other organizations in contributing to the economic vitality of the community.

A star performance

Libraries can earn stars to show their support of the PA Forward initiative. One bronze star, five silver stars and one gold star are available for libraries successfully fulfilling each level.

To earn the bronze star, libraries have to complete five core actions: watching a webinar, liking the PA Forward Facebook page, discussing the program at a staff meeting or submitting a library event to the PA Forward Best Practices Database.

They also must complete three bonus actions. Bronze stars must be achieved within one year of enrolling in the program.

After receiving bronze, libraries have one year to start on silver stars. Silver stars are earned after four actions for each literacy and a new bonus action are completed. Among other things, actions range from creating a display to discussing an article pertaining to a certain literacy.

“I used Summer Reading for most of it,” Beikert added, referencing the three silver stars Knox Public Library has.

Summer Reading had 112 kids this year, but Beikert offered programs for all members of the community.

Because PA Forward encourages community involvement, Beikert established community jigsaw puzzles and is hosting a marker-recycling bin in the library. Visitors have enjoyed both, according to Beikert.

“They enjoy what we do,” said the assistant director.

Earning stars is a prompt process. Once started, libraries have two years to complete silver star requirements. If not all stars are earned, the silver status expires and the library must start over.

After earning all five silver stars, a library can earn gold by completing four new bonus actions and having a staff member (or the library itself) become part of the Pennsylvania Library Association.

Going for gold

Beikert plans to go for gold by the end of the year.

She has two new programs in mind for the library’s two remaining silver stars in the health and finance literacies. Beikert is hoping to have library board member Jim McConnell offer a presentation in finances through Edward Jones seminars.

She’s also looking into having another board member share her experiences as a nurse during a library program. Details are still in the works.

But with a newly installed lift in the library and a basement of space, Beikert looks forward to utilizing as much of the library as possible.

“Hopefully then, after we get that (area) developed, we can do even more programs,” she said.

Interested in being part of the PA Forward initiative? Visitors are invited to the library’s programs. For information, call the library at (814) 797-1054.