County locations focusing on different literacies during National Library Week

BROOKVILLE — This week, America’s libraries are taking a proactive approach to promoting literacy.

From April 8 to 14, libraries across the country — including the Jefferson County Library System — will celebrate National Library Week.

“We want to let our community residents know libraries are not just recreation,” Mengle Memorial Library Director Darlene Marshall said.

“We’ve got education, and our schools depend on our libraries. When the cuts in the school funding happen, they turn more to libraries.”

Recently, the Jefferson County Commissioners did their part in promoting literacy by proclaiming April 8-14 National Library Week.

During this time, the Pennsylvania Library Association will focus on PA Forward, an innovative action plan for libraries to help Pennsylvanians improve essential literacy skills.

Marshall said the program covers five basic literacies that libraries address, including basic literacy, information literacy, civic and social literacy, health literacy and financial literacy.

According to Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library Director Rosalee Pituch, libraries have always promoted these literacies, but the program is a way to bring them into better focus.

Libraries promote basic literacy by making sure people can read, which leads to a better-trained and skilled work-force, of which, libraries have always been “strong supporters,” Pituch said.

Libraries have also always provided information literacy, Pituch said, which is defined as making sure Pennsylvanians learn how to use online resources and current technology to improve their education, enhance their job skills and to participate fully in a digital society.

Now, libraries are focusing more on this than ever before.

“That’s something we’re really working on,” Pituch said. “Because I think of the age of our population, and also economically — people can’t afford to have computers and Internet in their homes. And more is being demanded of people to use technology. That’s an area we really need to strive to improve.”

Pituch said civic and social literacy, which is defined as giving citizens of all ages the knowledge and skills they need to improve their lives and to contribute effectively in their communities, is promoted at Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library through everyday language and conversation.

Furthermore, libraries promote health and financial literacy through various resources, and Pituch hopes to include health and financial workshops in the library’s service offerings this year.

“I think you’ll find that our libraries in Jefferson County are really working to promote these five literacies, but especially focus on our services for children,” Marshall said.

Also this month, libraries are promoting Pennsylvania One Book: Every Young Child, a program that highlights the importance of early literacy development in preschoolers ages three to six.

Every year, the program features a new book for preschool children. This year’s selection is “Stop Snoring, Bernard!” by Zachariah Ohora.

According to Marshall, the state’s libraries will be featuring programs to go along with the book.

Additionally, the Mengle Memorial Library, which serves as the headquarters for the county’s library system, is receiving a grant for early learning initiatives to focus on the importance of the skills that make sure children read.

She’s hoping the program the library implements through the grant will be replicated statewide.

“A lot of times, people don’t realize that we as libraries, when we have story hours, we are the first place kids get that access to reading, and the importance of reading,” Marshall said. “And if you’ve ever seen children, they mimic what adults do, and it’s very important to model reading to make libraries a fun place to go for reading.”

In conjunction with National Library Week, the Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library will offer a fine-free week to encourage people to visit the library and to return overdue books.

The library will also send its annual fund-raising letter to library cardholders and other library supporters.

Pituch said she’s thankful the Jefferson County Commissioners continue to serve as strong supporters of libraries and have highlighted the importance of libraries through their most recent proclamation.

“I have to say that we’ve always gotten tremendous support from the current commissioners,” Pituch said. “They’re very interested in literacy, and they’re always supportive of what libraries are doing in the county.”