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Libraries Play a Key Role in Literacy & Reading

Jane Cowell
3 min readFeb 2, 2020


The International Federation Library Associations (IFLA) has recently published the IFLA Toolkit for Library Engagement in Literacy and Reading Strategies to help library associations, institutions and individual library and information workers advocate for their libraries’ role in literacy and reading. In Victoria, Australia a collaboration between State Library of Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria also developed a strategic framework Reading and Literacy for all 2015–2018 that drove a substantial body of work across all Victorian Public Libraries to improve capability and deliver of early years literacy and adult literacy services. This first framework was a major collaborative effort that was a culmination of wide and deep conversation across the library sector and involved other stakeholders who deliver literacy services including the Victorian Department of Education and Training. This ensured a strong sense of ownership and commitment for all Victorian libraries to the program indentified in the original framework.

Initiatives and outcomes from this included:

  1. Development of quality indicators for early years literacy programs
  2. Multiple assessments of each library service against the early years literacy program indicators.
  3. Training and a toolkit, Lets Read!, for staff delivering early years literacy programs.
  4. Professional development and grant funding to encourage and support public libraries to be more active in delivering adult literacy initiatives.
  5. Reading and Literacy for all: Adult Literacy, Victorian Public Libraries in action a best practice guide for adult literacy services to use as an advocacy tool and sets out the roles and achievements of public libraries.

Examples of the grant program include Moreland Council Library’s Word Play, a family literacy initiative and Yarra Plenty Regional Library’s pilot of a Volunteer-led adult literacy program for new migrants and refugees.

From this strategy PLV was able to build key evidence establishing libraries as essential for delivering literacy and language outcomes for adults, families and children. The report on this 3-year body of work can be found here.

However, Victorian libraries’ work in literacy is not at an end. High levels of literacy are required for many of the complex jobs that are developing in this new digital economy as significant change in people’s work continues at a fast pace. State Library of Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria have continued their collaboration and developed a new revised Reading and Literacy for all: A strategic framework for Victorian Public Libraries 2019- 2023 to inform the next four years of collaborative endeavour for Public Libraries across the state of Victoria.

These strategic documents are important advocacy tools to ensure that literacy, reading and libraries remain on the government agenda and Victorian Libraries in Australia are a great example of how to use this strategic work to amplify this message. And of course libraries across the globe are also doing this important work.

The IFLA Public Libraries Section is also highlighting reading as an essential focus for libraries in their satellite conference to be held in Oxford, United Kingdom on 12th and 13th August 2020. In partnership with the IFLA Literacy and Reading Section, IFLA Metropolitan Libraries Section and IFLA Libraries for Children and Young People, they will present Reading Journeys.This will explore personal reading choices for adults and children, the learning to read journey, the research into influences that make a difference to our reading journeys and the creative journey from the perspective of authors. Reading and literacy remains a major focus for IFLA in the coming year. The call for submissions is out and public libraries and school libraries around the world are being asked to share their reading and literacy stories.

Reproduced from the IFLA Public Libraries Section Blog previously published in January 2020



Jane Cowell

Librarian, interested in libraries, digital disruption, startups, Australian politics