PLA Initiatives

Image of hands using paper, markers, and sticky notes for project planning

Our groundbreaking initiatives do more than develop new skills—they move our profession to ever more innovative places.

2020 Census
In 2020, the U.S. Census will be conducted primarily online for the first time. Like past e-government efforts, this likely impacts libraries and libraries' technology resources as staff work to assist people in participating in the Census. The 2020 Census also presents an opportunity to increase public awareness and use of Census data. To best position libraries to support our communities in the 2020 Census, ALA is engaging with the Census Bureau and other stakeholders to ensure that libraries are informed and represented in the policy discussions and planning process. ALA is advocating for a fair, accurate, and inclusive Census that recognizes the roles libraries will play in this vital civic effort.

Digital Literacy
Community members come into public libraries every day, hoping to complete life tasks many of us take for granted, but lacking the basic computer skills to accomplish them. Through its digital literacy efforts, including DigitalLearn.org, PLA supports its members to make their libraries digital literacy learning centers.

Early Literacy
PLA, together with the Association for Library Service to Children, have incorporated the latest research in early literacy, into a series of turnkey parent and caregiver workshops that provide public libraries with vital tools to help prepare parents for their critical role as their child's first teacher. Every Child Ready to Read®  @ your library® (ECRR) is an education initiative focused on teaching parents and other caregivers how to support the early literacy development of their children. Early literacy efforts like ECRR are a natural first step in supporting children’s learning and development and building greater family engagement

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice
Public libraries have a unique and unparalleled ability to bring people and knowledge together, and PLA is committed to helping libraries achieve their mission through the core values of openness and inclusiveness. In February 2017, PLA formed a Task Force on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice (EDISJ), which works to strengthen the organization’s commitment to its core values, while ensuring issues of EDISJ remain a top priority.

Family Engagement
For families, family engagement is about the knowledge, attitudes, values, and behaviors that enable children to be motivated, enthusiastic, and successful learners. For schools and libraries, family engagement means respectful partnerships that offer the information, guidance, and opportunities for families to be active in their children’s learning and development. PLA initiated its work on family engagement in early 2015.

Fostering Creative Community Connections
Launched in March at the PLA 2018 Conference in Philadelphia, the Fostering Creative Community Connections project promotes reading and literary joy, community engagement, library programs and services, and creative expression from diverse writers through Short Story Dispensers and a national short story contest. The project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and managed by PLA, with support from community publisher Short Edition.

Global Libraries Legacy Partnership
In May 2016, PLA was honored to receive a ten-year grant from the Global Libraries (GL) Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. PLA is working with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington’s Information School (TASCHA), and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to align our individual efforts toward a shared vision: a global library field where every public library can fulfill its potential as a vital, visible source of individual and community well-being.

Health Literacy, Programming, and Consumer Health Information
Access to current and reliable health information is imperative for the well-being of all Americans, and public libraries are frequently a "go-to" resource as people navigate complex issues of health care, insurance, aging and more. A new nationwide initiative from the Public Library Association (PLA) and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) will increase public library workers’ knowledge and skills related to consumer health services.

Inclusive Internship Initiative
The Inclusive Internship Initiative (III) introduces high school students from diverse backgrounds to careers in public libraries through paid, mentored internships. Over the summer, students work with their local public library to implement a community-based project. PLA supports intern and library mentor attendance at kick-off and wrap-up events, and provides a stipend for intern’s time. Participating library are selected through a competitive application process. Learn more and apply to participate in the Summer 2019 cohort! Applications are being accepted until February 1, 2019 at 5:00 PM Central. This program is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, grant RE-00-17-0129-17.

Libraries Connecting You to Coverage
PLA, along with nearly a dozen other organizations throughout the U.S., is working to promote health insurance enrollment. Our primary goal is to promote enrollment in the health insurance marketplace during the Open Enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act. PLA will do this by distributing quality materials and communications and offering 120 mini-grants of $300 to U.S. public libraries or systems to disseminate, educate, and encourage their communities to enroll in the health insurance Marketplace during the Open Enrollment period between November 1 and December 15, 2018.

Libraries Lead with Digital Skills
ALA is pleased to share Libraries Lead with Digital Skills—a new initiative, sponsored by Google, to ensure that public libraries across the nation receive ongoing access to free tools and resources to help everyone across America grow their skills, careers, and businesses. The initiative is launched in collaboration with Grow with Google, which has made a commitment to delivering in-person workshops for job seekers, small businesses, and library staff in all 50 states. The tour consists of free, one-day events hosted in local libraries, with the goal of helping people learn valuable digital skills like how to use the internet to help their small business grow, or how to use online tools to organize a job search. As the Grow with Google tour visits each state, PLA will make micro-funding available to libraries throughout that state so that they can provide programming, outreach, and education in their own libraries, to address the digital skills gaps of job seekers and small businesses.

Opioid Crisis Response
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 115 people die every day after an opioid overdose, and many public libraries are acutely impacted by this national health crisis. In October 2018, PLA announced that it will collaborate with OCLC on a new project to collect and share knowledge and resources to support public libraries and their community partners in addressing the opioid crisis. OCLC was awarded a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to perform this work. The project will run through December 2019.

Performance Measurement
Typically libraries rely on simple attendance counts and anecdotes to measure the effectiveness of their services. However, these statistics are not enough to guide internal strategy or build persuasive arguments to secure library funding. Enhancing existing service data with outcome data offers tremendous potential in many areas of the public library. PLA officially launched Project Outcome, its latest field-driven outcome measurement initiative, in 2015.