Libraries as Civic Engagement Leaders

“Libraries are at the heart of the communities they serve, and civic engagement is at the heart of where libraries are going in the 21st century. Moving from a community resource to a civic engagement leader is a logical step in the evolution of public libraries. They have a rich knowledge base about what’s going on in the community that can shape and encourage strong connections for engagement and action.”

                          – From the Urban Libraries Council report Stepping Up to the Civic Engagement Challenge

Is “civic engagement leader” one of the roles you see the libraries in your community playing? Or would you like to strengthen this role in the library in which you work?jane salisbury

In her Infopeople course, Communities and Civic Engagement: The Library’s Role as Connector, instructor Jane Salisbury says, “Libraries are finding many ways to form connections through civic engagement. Public forums, conversation projects, and embedding librarians in local government projects are some of the ways that libraries are making themselves pivotal, and sometimes essential, to the process of building community.”

Libraries are not only hosting and facilitating forums and conversations in the library, but in some cases librarians are also going out into the community for civic engagement. Salisbury shares, “Sending librarians out into the world of local government and community events—embedding them, as some express it—is the other side of the two-way street of civic engagement. Libraries are learning to place their staff in the boardrooms, convention centers, and farmers’ markets of their cities, marketing their skills and resources in a whole series of new contexts. City council members and health and job fair organizers don’t necessarily expect librarians to show up, but when the value of their skills and resources is demonstrated, they become essential partners in important initiatives outside the library walls.”

Interested in learning more about civic engagement in libraries? Consider enrolling in the upcoming 4-week course, Communities and Civic Engagement: The Library’s Role as Connector. The course will support your efforts to enhance civic life in your community. Exemplary programs will be discussed and resources will be shared, with an emphasis on practical steps that you can take in your own community.

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