I recently attended the American Library Association MidWinter Meeting where we learned about community engagement, social innovators, successful tools and programs libraries are using to expand their relevancy in the digital age of the 21st Century.
In addition to the ALA business meetings and large exhibit floor, there was a Symposium on the Future of Libraries, which spent three days exploring near-term trends sparking innovation in libraries today and longer-term trends that will help libraries adapt to the needs of their communities.
I was fortunate to attend many of these sessions and get a glimpse into the creative world of today’s librarians and develop an understanding of how they are positioning their libraries to best support the unique communities they serve.
There were 5 main takeaways from the symposium, which I feel are applicable to our library work and more broadly, all our work with community engagement and lifelong learning:
Supporting community aspirations
Stop asking the community what they want of their library, start asking what the community aspires to be. This switch in thinking, asking not only library users, but calling or surveying at community events will pull information from a wider and more relevant audience. Once the aspirations of the community are identified, the library can rethink the services they provide and target resources to support the achievement of these aspirations.
Libraries are finding new ways to engage with communities' resources to strengthen the resources and service population for programs. Branding a partnership, cross promoting events, and pooling resources and budgets, can allow for greater community impact. Partnerships can bring a higher level of clout or legitimacy to programs that may otherwise be discounted. An important piece to these partnerships is not just bringing partners into the library but getting the librarians out to partner locations and events.