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Libraries and 21st Century Literacy Task Force Report
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Libraries and 21st Century Literacies Initiative

Leveraging the People’s University

In an era when the public is demanding greater efficiency and program consolidation at all levels of government, Pennsylvania’s libraries—public, academic, and school libraries—serve as models of cost-effective service. Libraries stretch the public’s resources by sharing books, computers, DVDs, facilities and expertise. By their very definition, libraries serve the public broadly and efficiently.

Yet, much potential remains for libraries to do even greater things to prepare Pennsylvanians to compete successfully in the 21st Century labor force and to live healthy, productive lives. Our libraries—properly leveraged—can help solve some of the Commonwealth’s biggest economic and social problems.

To refocus and reinforce the ways in which libraries – the People’s University – can support Pennsylvanians in leading successful, productive lives, the Pennsylvania Library Association recommends a new statewide initiative be undertaken, Libraries and 21st Century Literacies. This initiative redefines the library’s role in our Commonwealth within the context of five essential literacies that Pennsylvanians must attain in order to succeed as citizens, parents, students, employers, employees, and consumers.

 These essential 21st Century Literacies are:
  1. Basic Literacy – Libraries can push Pennsylvania to achieve one of the highest literacy rates in the country, a better trained and more skilled workforce, and a growing tax base, economy and population.
  2. Information Literacy – Libraries can help all Pennsylvanians learn how to use online resources and current technology to improve their education, to enhance their job skills and to participate fully in a digital society.
  3. Civic and Social Literacy – Libraries can play an important role in helping citizens and students have the knowledge and skills they need to improve their lives, to participate and contribute effectively to their community, government and society and to connect with one another through civil discourse.
  4. Health Literacy – Libraries can play an important role in helping citizens actively manage their own and their family’s well-being, making them effective partners with their health care providers and reducing costs.
  5. Financial Literacy -- Libraries can play an important role in helping citizens become informed consumers as well as helping individuals, small businesses and other organizations contribute to the economic vitality of their communities by stimulating innovation, entrepreneurism, and economic development.

Background Documents

Part 1: Executive Summary (PDF, 60KB, 1 page)
Part 2: Pennsylvania's Literacy Challenges (PDF, 91KB, 1 page)
Part 3: Overview (PDF, 93KB, 6 pages)
Part 4: Literacy Rationales:
            Basic Literacy (PDF, 58KB, 1 page)
            Information Literacy (PDF, 27KB, 1 page)
            Civic & Social Literacy (PDF, 46KB, 1 page)          
            Financial Literacy (PDF, 48KB, 1 page)
            Health Literacy (PDF, 35KB, 1 page)
Part 5: What Will it Take? - Funding the 21st Century Literacies Initiative (PDF, 121KB, 4 pages)
Part 6: How PA Libraries Stack Up (PDF, 91KB, 1 page)
Part 7: Implementation Plan (PDF, 112KB, 4 pages)
Part 8: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 107KB, 6 pages)

NextGen Advocacy Task Force Members

Ideas That Work

Childhood Literacy (PDF, 75KB, 2 pages)
Health Literacy (PDF, 162KB, 2 pages)


Basic Literacy (PDF, 15KB, 2 pages)
Civic Social Literacy (PDF, 15KB, 2 pages)
Financial Literacy (PDF, 12KB, 2 pages)
Health Literacy (PDF, 17KB, 2 pages)
Information Literacy (PDF, 11KB, 2 pages)
Core Documents (PDF, 16KB, 3 pages)


PDF Files

PDF files above require Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free download



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