Volume 26, Number 4, Winter 2004

Maryland Public Libraries Emergent Literacy Initiative: Creating Connections to Grow Readers!

by Stephanie Schauck, Maryland State Library

The Division of Library Development and Services has provided facilitation, leadership, and resource support guidance on this successful initiative. Maryland is fortunate in the configuration of public libraries into twenty-three county systems, one city system, and three regional libraries. The administrators of these systems meet quarterly. At their July 1998 meeting, Kathleen Reif, Director of Wicomico County Free Library, and Harriet Henderson, Director of Montgomery County Public Libraries, became co-chairs of a taskforce on Birth to Four issues for public libraries. Each system was invited to participate. The power of this commitment by close to half of the systems, with the inclusion of top administrators and/or their designees, set us on a path determined to put action to our professional passion and belief in the vital role public libraries contribute to the lives of children, their families and communities.

The continuing projects and results include many that have been shared across the state and nation. Working collaboratively we have delivered multiple training to library staff serving children:

  • emergent literacy, tied to the PLA initiative and linked to Maryland education standards,
  • childcare certification workshops,
  • a workshop for the Spanish community, and
  • in November 2004 will offer training on children and families with special needs.
In addition we have offered statewide mini-grants to motivate systems to take risks in extending services and resources related to this population. Several larger competitive grants have allowed systems to reach more deeply into communities where public library use is limited.

We continue to support evaluation of all projects and have included research of workshop impact on service delivery by external consultants. Elaine Czarnecki and Gilda Martinez have shared what Maryland has learned with several states and at the last PLA conference.

Our future plans are based on the expressed needs of the library systems as they meet our LSTA and state strategic plans. We see no decrease in the request for further training and resource support.

For more information, contact Stephanie M. Shauck, Youth Services Consultant at the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Library Development and Services. .