PLA publications & outreach efforts highlight importance of family engagement through libraries

For Immediate Release
Mon, 06/11/2018


Laurence Deutsch

Manager, Communications

Public Library Association (PLA)

CHICAGO -- Public Library Association (PLA) members and staff are hitting the road this summer to spread the word about libraries’ role in family engagement. They will present two workshops at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s National Family and Community Engagement Conference, July 11-13 in Cleveland, Ohio. Approximately 1,300 school administrators, teachers, parents, students and library professionals will gather at the conference to come together to discuss high-impact, evidence-based family and community engagement strategies.

The first workshop, “Early Learning and Literacy in Public Libraries,” will describe how Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library collaborates with local schools to build parent engagement. PLA member Pamela Jankowski, the library’s director of literacy and learning, will co-present this session with Emily Stupica, a school psychologist.

"At Cuyahoga County Public Library, parent engagement programs have had a significant impact on parents and their children," explains Jankowski. "By increasing parents knowledge, confidence and social capital, their children are better equipped to begin school ready to learn."

PLA Past-President Felton Thomas, Jr., director of the Cleveland Public Library, will team up with PLA Deputy Director Scott Allen to present the second workshop, “Public Libraries: Vital Partners in Family Engagement.” This session will highlight the potential of public libraries in this space with guidance on how organizations can collaborate with local public libraries as learning spaces and extend their own impact to engage families. Click here to learn more about this conference.

What Is Family Engagement?

Family engagement is a shared responsibility among families, educators, and communities to support children’s learning and development, from birth through young adulthood. It happens everywhere children learn—especially at the library. Family engagement is about developing the knowledge, attitudes, values, and behaviors that enable children to be motivated, enthusiastic, and successful learners. In libraries, this means having respectful partnerships with families and providing information, guidance, and opportunities for families to be active in their children’s learning and development. Libraries can provide this inspiration and reaffirm family members’ important roles in their children’s learning by applying the 5R Framework, which consists of:
  • Reaching out: Libraries reach out to families, especially those in special circumstances, to promote the programs, collections, and services that are vital in a knowledge economy;
  • Raising up: Libraries elevate family perspectives to develop and improve programs and services;
  • Reinforcing: Libraries guide and model the specific actions that family members can take to support learning, from birth through young adulthood;
  • Relating: Libraries offer opportunities for families to build peer-to-peer relationships and increase social networks; and
  • Reimagining: Libraries expand their community partnerships to reimagine ecologies of learning and how to support healthy children and families.

Key Publications

PLA has helped with several publications on the topic of family engagement through libraries. 
  • Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement (PDF, 26 pgs.): Released in 2016 by PLA and the Harvard Family Research Project (now known as the Global Family Research Project), this document calls upon libraries to join together with schools and community organizations to establish a system of family engagement that extends throughout a child’s life, supports children and families, and prepares children for success.
  • IDEABOOK: Libraries for Families: This publication, released in 2017 by PLA and the Global Family Research Project, builds upon the 2016 "call to action" by highlighting case studies from more than 50 libraries that are incorporating the five “Rs” of engagement (listed above) to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with families in their communities. Click here to learn more.
  • The Living IDEABOOK is a digital extension of IDEABOOK: Libraries for Families. This website is meant to be used as a continuing resource for libraries in designing family engagement systems and a repository for new case studies, success stories, and program ideas.
  • Also, at the 2018 American Library Association's (ALA) 2018 Annual Conference, PLA will unveil a new toolkit--developed in partnership with ALA's 'Libraries Transform' campaign--for raising awareness of how libraries promote family engagement in their communities.
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About PLA
The Public Library Association (PLA) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 10,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders.