I recently attended the Public Library Association Conference in Indianapolis. There was a series of sessions on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative of the American Library Association and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. The initiative is based on the vision of “turning outward,” shifting our focus from an inward institutional viewpoint to an outward community-based view. The Harwood Institute has lots of resources available online (http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/how-to-turn-outward/resources/#orgfirst) including their book The Organization-First Approach, and additional resources can be found on the ALA website.
What struck me most about the ALA/Harwood approach is that the goal is first and foremost to have libraries play a role in bringing diverse groups of people together to work together and determine shared community aspirations – not necessarily related to library service. Librarians and library staff may not even lead these collaborations, but can help create the conditions for it to happen. As a result of hearing community aspirations, a library can reflect these ideas in library service planning, or share the information with relevant community organizations. It’s all about the library’s role in being an agent of community change.
Much like our CLA Community-Led Library Service Network, the ALA has an online “community” group called Libraries Foster Community Engagement. You don’t have to be an ALA member to join.
I also heard about some other online resources, including:
- Omaha (Nebraska) Public Library’s Community Engagement blog (Omaha Public Library is in the middle of an Institute of Museum and Library Service grant funded community engagement project)
- Librarians Build Communities blog
- Cheryl Gould’s Fully Engaged Libraries website
Community-Led Service Manager, Halifax Public Libraries