The Western Allegheny Community Library is one of just three libraries in the county recognized by the Pennsylvania Library Association for “Best Practices” by winning not one, but two awards for their programming. The awards were announced in May by the Best Practices Committee. Western Allegheny Community Library, along with Millvale Community Library and Robinson Township Library, were recognized for their outstanding efforts in children’s programming. WACL earned the Best Practice Award for Display and Design for “Teen Recommendation Cards,” a fun and easy way for teens to leave their mark on the library and get involved. The cards are dry erase and placed around the teen department for teens to pick a favorite read and tell others about it. Recommendations are not just for books but board and video games as well, and are a way for the teens to get more involved at the library. Western Allegheny Community Library also earned the Best Practice Award for Infant/Toddler Programming for “Building Blocks,” which helps caregivers and babies experience the joys of reading together. Reading, talking, playing, and singing are crucial to a child’s growth and development, and the reason behind the Building Blocks program. The Building Blocks pack include a black and white board book, activity guide, book list, a reusable bag, and tips on the importance of reading. Amanda Kirby, Director at Western Allegheny Community Library, said the libraries will receive their awards formally at a ceremony breakfast at state conference in October, and their programs will serve as a template to be shared with the association members across the state.
“We’ll get an award, hang at the library, and have the opportunity to talk about our particular programs,” she said. “Libraries are encouraged to reach out to each other to share some of these great programs, and we’ve incorporated previous winners into our repertoire, so it really does help everyone.” Some of the programs take years to develop and cultivate, Kirby said, adding that the Building Blocks program was just such a case. “Building Blocks started in January of 2015 as a caregiver package – several pages of different early literacy information. Our library focuses on six early learning areas, including singing, playing, and reading,” she said. “Our Children’s staff developed a curriculum around them, and the kits had information, songs, rhymes, and board books for every child added to the bag. The program began through a sponsorship by the Oakdale Masonic Lodge and was so successful we incorporated it into our annual budget. Since its inception, we’ve had several hundred babies signed up for it.”
Since 2004, the Best Practices committee has recognized Pennsylvania libraries for their exceptional services to youth (birth to 18) with the Best Practice Award. Programs considered to be “best practice” support learning and literacy, effectiveness in reaching intended goals, cost-efficiency, age-appropriateness, ease of replication, favorable reception, and innovation. Community collaboration and promotion or recognition of PA Forward is a plus as well. Winners will receive the awards at the annual Pennsylvania Library Association Conference, which is at the DoubleTree in Green Tree in October. The Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA) is a system of 46 independent public libraries with more than 70 locations that work together, share resources, and cooperate to better serve county residents. These libraries are community connectors, providing opportunities for personal and professional development through access to content and experiences for all ages. ACLA libraries support education and exploration while developing early literacy skills, school readiness, and lifelong learning.