ACLA expands the resources of its more than 70 library locations beyond what they could accomplish individually.
In response to a stated need, ACLA developed a shared accounting services program that headquarters staff could provide to Member Libraries on a voluntary, “opt-in” basis. Starting with a single library in 2014, ACLA now supports one-third of the total Membership. From the start, the shared accounting services program was designed to be self-sustaining through annual cost-recovery fees. The primary benefits of this service are higher level of reporting, increased efficiency, and leveraged cost savings. ACLA is pleased to be able to assist libraries in ensuring that the public’s investment is handled responsibly and efficiently.
The ACLA staff provides direct advocacy on behalf of libraries and library service throughout the County. This includes meeting with elected officials, funders and key stakeholders to inform and educate them on library programs and services. The staff also gathers data and information on the value of library services, creates messaging and marketing materials for countywide application, and organizes resources for local library use with their boards, municipal officials and communities.
ACLA coordinates a variety of workshops and forums for the system’s library staff and trustees. Ongoing professional development is essential to ensuring that county libraries are current with changes in the industry, advances in technology and best practices that keep library programs and services relevant to community needs. State regulations stipulate a minimum number of hours of continuing education (CE) that librarians must earn each year, so many workshops offer CE credits.
The Allegheny County Library Association solicits and receives public and private funding annually for countywide library operations, as well as specific programs and services. The primary funder is the Allegheny Regional Asset District (ARAD), which annually has committed one third of its allocations for library service since its inception in 1995. State funding is secured through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Additional government funds are secured through Allegheny County. Funds are dispersed to Member Libraries according to detailed formulas. In addition, funds are also secured from private foundations and corporations at the local, state and national level. In some cases, every library participates in a grant-funded project, and in other instances multiple libraries choose to participate.
In keeping with its mission, ACLA staff assists libraries in identifying more efficient and effective business models, especially those that leverage collective impact and focus available local resources on direct community service. This requires broadening the vision of library boards and staff as well as developing and testing new service models.
ACLA monitors county and state requirements, coordinates communication between the State and local libraries, and provides key data for and reviews the annual reports submitted by each library. ACLA defines service standards and tracks annual compliance. ACLA also establishes system standards in areas of community responsiveness, consortium participation and governance best practice.
Each year, ACLA staff provides customized consulting services to local library boards, municipal officials, library directors and other staff, and Friends organizations. These services address a wide variety of issues, including board governance, accounting practices, advocacy, fundraising, compliance with State Code and Regulations, leadership transitions, municipal funding, human resource policies and practice, youth services and general library operations. ACLA provides technical assistance to build the governance and management capacity of individual libraries, as well as convenes and consults with the Member Libraries for purposes of strategic planning and resource sharing. Staff visits local libraries throughout the year to gain a better understanding of the specific achievements and challenges of each individual library and community and, as needed, provides information, resource referrals, policy and document templates, and guidance. Staff provides consulting services via email, phone, and in-person.
ACLA develops mutually beneficial partnerships with other agencies and organizations in the county, region, state and beyond to bring best practices information, training and programming opportunities to the 70+ library locations that serve County residents. Some partnerships are for one-time events or programs, and others are ongoing.
Since 1952, bookmobile service has been provided in Allegheny County, an area of 745 square miles with a current population of 1.2 million. ACLA has been managing this mobile library service for more than a decade. The program has three distinct routes: Headstart and preschool sites, senior services, and community service via contract to parts of the county that do not otherwise have easily accessible library service. Combined, these three routes have more than 100 stops throughout the county. Please visit ACLA Mobile Library Services’ website for more information.
ACLA and its Member Libraries serve a critical role for children and families throughout the County. ACLA, in partnership with key organizations, has expanded its programming to include innovative and engaging educational and entertainment resources. In addition, ACLA Youth Services organizes and provides professional learning opportunities aligned with national library trends and educational standards; ensures best practices countywide; connects libraries and schools, as well as libraries and the region’s learning community. ACLA also coordinates many countywide programs.