Community Engagement - Where to Start?

Shirley Biladeau's picture

If you have been in the same room as I for any length of time,
you have heard me talk about “community engagement” as an important task for
all library staff and board members to be engaged.  Community engagement is an ongoing commitment
every library director and library board member, should consider incorporating
into in their workflow.  What it will
look like, will depend on you, your library, and your community.

Where do I start?  While there
is no one pathway for developing community engagement which every library can
follow, there are resources which provide tools, so library
directors and board members working with their community stakeholders, can
create a successful community engagement plan. 

Here are
some basic tips:

1.  Identify a long-term, broad vision for your
community
.  Remember the library is a
part of the community.  The vision should be about the
community and the role the library can play to support a healthy community.

2.  Identify who in your community should be
involved in the conversation
.  Who is interested in building a healthy, strong community?

3.  Review the resources listed below – and others.  Pick one that best fits your situation – or
even better yet, use parts from all resources that apply.

4.  Make a commitment as a director and board
member to maintain the activities of community engagement as an ongoing part of
your responsibility as a library director and board member.
  Community engagement is an ongoing process.  Be ready to participate as your time allows.

5.  Think big, but realistic.  What relationships can you build and
successfully maintain?  Keeping the
conversation going is important so individuals can be heard and contribute.

6.  Use your library community connections to discover
what other communities are doing
.  Learn
from your colleagues – or better yet, if your communities are close
geographically, work together.

Why is this
important?

Today’s
world of information is changing quickly. 
It has always been a tough road to go alone, but today seems to be even tougher. 

1.  Building collaborative partnerships with
other like-minded organizations in your community can maximize the impact of
your library’s long-term vision.  If you are a
one-person library, you may not be working 40 hours a week at this
position.  Therefore, you need help. 

2. Engaging
others in the community can help the director and the library board keep the
library relevant, regardless of the fast-changing world in which we live.

3.  Community engagement builds strong
communities which in turn impact the use and viability of the local public
library.

… And you
can probably add to this list.

What are some resources?

Here are three resources.  Please review all three and determine which might best fit your community's situation.  All are freely available to download from their respective websites.

1.   Orton Community Heart &
Soul Field Guide [https://www.orton.org/]

2.  Turning Outward Resources for
Libraries from American Library Association’s Initiative “Libraries Transforming
Community [http://www.ala.org/tools/librariestransform/libraries-transforming-communities/resources-for-library-professionals].

3.  Aspen Institute Action Guide 2.0 [http://www.libraryvision.org/]. 

Remember these are tools, not necessarily a
perfect plan for your community.  How you
incorporate the tools and continue working toward the greater vision, will
determine your success!