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Office of Commonwealth Libraries Five Year Plan

This guide outlines the Office of Commonwealth Libraries Five Year Plan from 2023-2027.

About the OCL 5 Year Plan (2023-2027)

The genesis of this plan was the requirement by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) of every certified state library administrative agency (SLAA) to submit a five-year plan to be eligible for funding through the “Grants to States” program of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

As the work began on the evaluation of the progress and products generated by the last LSTA Five-Year Plan, it became clear to the leadership of the Office of Commonwealth Libraries (OCL) that it would be beneficial to include all the work of the Office – in both bureaus, that funded by the Commonwealth as well as that funded by the federal government – as we set goals and projected outcomes for our efforts in a new five-year plan. 

This effort to draw together the various streams of the purposes of the Office and both Bureaus required a great deal of feedback from the libraries of Pennsylvania and their users (and non-users) and much participation and help from OCL staff in both Bureaus and Administration. 

The following document is an effort to focus our work for the next five years on three primary goals – refining and improving statewide services and impact, empowering libraries at the local level to develop sustainable and scalable practices in serving their communities and connecting with the statewide educational ecosystem in meaningful ways – spotlighting the role libraries play in every Pennsylvanian’s learning journey and elevating and celebrating the work and impact of librarians.

The overarching purpose of the Office is to support and provide excellent and equitable library services to the people of Pennsylvania.  Our three strategic goals aim to connect libraries and library services to the larger Pennsylvania ecosystem by supporting statewide (Goal 1) and local library activities (Goal 2) and ensuring we leverage the larger educational structures of which we are a part (Goal 3).

PA Consolidated Statutes (PA C.S. 24 §9311(b)) which outlines the Powers and Duties of the State Library and State Librarian

Office of Commonwealth Libraries (OCL) – Pursuant to the Library Code, Act 210 of 2012, OCL is charged with providing excellent and equitable library services and leadership in developing excellent and equitable libraries across Pennsylvania to support all learners in their journeys to grow, achieve their goals, and live successful lives. The Office operates as a deputate within the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Bureau of State Library – The primary role of the State Library of Pennsylvania is to collect, preserve, and provide access to materials for, by, and about Pennsylvania for the information and research needs of all branches of state government, libraries, and the public. The State Library’s collection consists of more than one million print volumes, newspapers, and Pennsylvania and U.S. government documents. This unique and rare collection includes the original Assembly Collection, a collection of colonial imprints dating from 1745, and the largest collection of historic Pennsylvania newspapers in the world. The State Library also provides access to electronic resources to support state government, serves as one of four Statewide Resource Centers in the Commonwealth, and offers rapid access to the collections of other major research and academic libraries of Pennsylvania and worldwide.

Bureau of Library Development – The primary role of the Bureau of Library Development is to serve the people of Pennsylvania by providing state and federal financial assistance to libraries. The Bureau also provides advisory services to help local libraries improve programs and services and fosters strong organizational development and governance practices. All the work of the Bureau of Library Development is driven by the belief that strong libraries build strong communities. The Bureau works with all libraries, including public, school (elementary and secondary), academic, institutional, special, and the Library for Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians (LAMP). Under provisions of the Library Code, the Bureau coordinates a network of state-aided local libraries, federated library systems, district library centers, and statewide library resource centers. The Bureau manages and provides support for the following state-funded programs: Public Library Subsidy, Library Access, Library Services for the Visually Impaired and Disabled, Keystone Grants for Public Library Facilities, and federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), as well as other federal funding programs for libraries administered by the IMLS.


The Office of Commonwealth Libraries and its Bureaus seek to:

  • Advance the well-being of all our community members by maintaining inclusive, safe, and welcoming spaces and by providing resources, services, and programs that promote equity of access to good outcomes for every Pennsylvanian.
  • Provide ongoing training and support for all library staff in developing competencies and enable libraries to overcome barriers to their services.
  • Use our strengths as both a law library and government document repository to inform and guide a public that often has difficulty navigating the channels of state and federal government in relation to policy and law.
  • Maintain strong relationships within our local and state communities, amplifying voices who have not been heard, listening and learning from their perspectives, and supporting the goals of every user and learner.
  • Be a leader within the library and archives communities to advocate for broader adoption and implementation of all measures striving for equity of access to information and library services.

Needs refined through the evaluation

The independent evaluation began in September 2021 and concluded in March 2022. It employed a variety of methods including:

  1. Interviews with 12 OCL staff who had direct LSTA program involvement and leadership of key partner organizations.
  2. Analysis of demographic data for Pennsylvania.
  3. Reviews of State Program Reports, internal LSTA documentation, websites, and social media.
  4. Four stakeholder focus groups conducted virtually with a total of 135 participants.
  5. Telephone interviews with key stakeholders; and
  6. Web-based survey Nov 2021 - Jan 2022 of the Pennsylvania library community (718 responses). Seventy-three (73%) of respondents represented public libraries, 18% K-12 school libraries, 6% academic libraries, and 2% special libraries. Respondents were in 62 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Needs Addressed

  1. There is a need for libraries to provide new services and transform themselves, provide adequate and well used electronic resources while ensuring curation of digital assets, and support for sustainable and environmentally sound approaches while protecting and preparing for disaster planning and climate change effects.
  2. There is a need for libraries to be responsive to community needs and engage actively with communities with particular focus on populations in the margins, a need for support in strategic foresight and established healthy governance structures.
  3. There is a need for diverse and adequate talent and a robust education pipeline for the library workforce, continuing education especially in relation to new service areas and programs, and leadership support as people assume new and more responsible roles within the libraries. It is critical to plan for succession planning and be able to use existing educational structures.

Draft goals were crafted reflecting the totality of the OCL’s operations. A staff survey asked to map assignments to proposed goals and solicited feedback for revising the goals. A one-question web-based survey of the Pennsylvania library community was conducted in May 2022 which elicited more than 1,500 responses from library staff and active and prospective library users to an open ended, forward looking question “what do you want your library to offer in the next 3-5 years?" The draft goals and objectives were revised again and the final plan was developed. Drafts were reviewed a number of times by OCL staff before the plan was finalized. 

All library organizations most fully realize their mission when they collaborate and coordinate with community entities. In addition to OCL’s work with libraries of all kinds, a representative and non-exhaustive listing of partnerships OCL may pursue with other agencies and organizations around the state for the benefit of library operations and development include the following:

  • Pennsylvania schools, colleges, and universities
  • Various departments, agencies, and commissions within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Intermediate Units (29 regional support structures for formal education and professional development for educators, primarily K-12 public education)
  • Historical societies and Museums
  • Affinity groups and cultural networks
  • Other SLAAs
  • Pennsylvania counties and municipalities
  • Non-government agencies and associations.

OCL will use a variety of methodologies to evaluate the success of the projects in meeting the goals of the LSTA Five-Year Plan FFY 2023-2027. These include ongoing evaluation throughout the period of the Plan:

  • Surveys (paper and web-based) and/or interviews upon completion of grant-funded projects.
  • Surveys (paper and web-based) and/or discussions at library administrator meetings annually to determine outcomes and effectiveness of projects related to the goals.
  • Project reports from grantees upon program completion, to include outcomes based on expectations set in applications. State Program Reports (SPR) will be completed and submitted to IMLS every year.
  • Town hall meetings through the period of the Plan to assess progress towards goals and outcomes, and to make course adjustments. Participants in these meetings will include library users, community leaders, library trustees and other elected or appointed officials, and library staff.
  • Questions embedded in statewide surveys and/or polls conducted by external evaluators (research centers/teams possibly in collaboration with other state agencies if convenient).
  • Collections and analysis of PLS data and other data identified by the OCL staff.

In addition, the OCL will engage an outside evaluator to conduct an assessment of the completed Plan as required by IMLS. Included in this evaluation will be an examination of data and evaluations conducted throughout the period of the Plan, stakeholder input activities to be determined by the evaluator, and discussions with the OCL staff and leadership, and key partners.