Librarians are natural problem solvers, so engaging with the community and helping to solve real-life community challenges should be an easy fit for us. And for some, it is. For others, who like the safety of the library’s four walls and the status quo of traditional library services, community outreach can be daunting. Rest assured that there are many tools and resources to help you look outward and help make your community better.
Communities across the nation face many of the same challenges: lack of high-paying jobs, low civic engagement among residents, and increasing poverty levels. But within the unique fabric of our communities, more specific issues may arise, such as youth obesity, low high school graduation rates, and drug and alcohol abuse. Librarians can help their communities as they work alongside their city governments, nonprofit, and educational communities to find solutions.
If you are looking for a few good ways to get started, select one of the activities below.
Connect with your community today!
- Connect with your city’s or town’s office of economic development to discuss how the library can support workforce needs and support for entrepreneurs and small business start-ups.
- Meet with your town clerk or local archivist and discuss possible digitization projects and upcoming grants you can collaborate on.
- Read recent city council, boards, and commission minutes to identify the pressing needs of the community. Attend meetings if possible.
- Identify nonprofit, governmental, and educational organizations that share in the library’s mission. Meet with leaders and attend their meetings.
- Align the goals of the library to that of your town or city’s strategic plan. Ensure library representation during the strategic planning process as well as ongoing participation.
Libraries Transforming Communities: “Communities have challenges. Libraries can Help” Look for lots of upcoming training, case studies, and blogs.
A Step-By-Step Guide to ‘Turning Outward’ to Your Community” (Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, 2015). The tools in this workbook are designed to help libraries strengthen their role as community leaders and bring about positive change in their communities.
Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library (Aspen Institute, 2016). This guide is intended to help libraries act on the report, Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries (2014).