Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue on Public Libraries

Shirley Biladeau's picture

The Colorado Dialog in Denver was a one-day event, fostering conversation among public librarians and representatives from public and private organizations.  Shirley Biladeau, Program Supervisor, Idaho Commission for Libraries, was invited to attend as an observer of the process. The participating attendees represented a wide range of public, private, and government entities. Billed as a multi-stakeholder forum to identify strategic opportunities presented by the Colorado's public libraries in response to the educational, economic, social, and technological transformations taking place across Colorado, the end goal was to identify key recommendations for action to advance progress on library-community relationships that build community capacity and resilience.

Objectives included:

  1. Identify models for community-library partnerships and innovations that are working well.
  2. Develop recommendations to strengthen existing initiatives.
  3. Consider new proposals, networks or partnerships to exploit new efficiencies and strengthen community resilience and sustainability.

Three fundamental questions provided direction for the conversations:

  1. How do libraries help build resilient communities?
  2. What changes are needed to strengthen the role of libraries in building resilient communities?
  3. What can my networks and I do to help define and implement pathways for action?

A few quotes from the day included:

  1. Lifelong learning from cradle to grave -- it is what libraries do best!  Raise the value of informal learning.
  2. Grow the vision and the leaders.  Success is about relationships and leadership development.
  3. We all own early literacy, health and vibrancy of family learning.  Let's work together.

There were many comments that focused on libraries as a bridge to new relationships, as a connector to new ideas, as providing a safe place, as a convener of dialogues, and as a knowledge curator.

This event was a great example of bringing together differing entities for a common cause. While the Idaho Commission for Libraries has hosted past events bringing together divergent groups, we are now looking at how we might foster these types of dialogues at the local level for great impact on long term sustainability of libraries. Helping libraries foster civil discourse in their communities to resolve their issues, making it a grassroots initiative.

One final quote from Gene Hainer, Colorado State Librarian: Communities are like a tapestry -- made up of individual threads to form a beautiful mosaic. With this in mind, what can we do individually and collectively to make things better? Explore the role of your library in the tapestry of its community.