CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) today announced the 10 public libraries chosen to undergo an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program as part of the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) Public Innovators Cohort.
The cohort, selected through a highly competitive peer-reviewed application process, is part of ALA’s LTC initiative, a national plan to help librarians strengthen their role as core community leaders and change-agents.
The selected libraries represent the range of American communities in terms of size, location, ethnic and racial diversity and socioeconomic status, and they all face challenges including illiteracy; unemployment; a “digital divide” in their community’s access to information technology; an influx of new and immigrant populations; and disparate access to services.
The following libraries make up the LTC Public Innovators Cohort:
- Red Hook (N.Y.) Public Library (pop: 1,900)
- Columbus (Wis.) Public Library (pop: 5,000)
- Knox County (Ind.) Library (pop: 33,900)
- Suffolk (Va.) Public Library System (pop: 85,000)
- Hartford (Conn.) Public Library (pop: 125,000)
- Springfield (Mass.) City Library (pop: 153,000)
- Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Public Library (pop: 195,000)
- Spokane County (Wash.) Library District (pop: 255,000)
- San Jose (Calif.) Public Library (pop: 980,000)
- Los Angeles Public Library (pop: 3.8 million)
Through in-person training, webinars and coaching — valued at $50,000 — teams from each library will learn new community engagement techniques and apply them within their communities. Each library also receives an $8,000 cash grant to help cover the cost of their new community-engagement work.
In partnership with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, Libraries Transforming Communities addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways. The initiative is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Public libraries have long served as trusted and treasured institutions, and librarians today can leverage that strong position for the betterment of their communities,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “As a longtime champion of library-led community engagement and innovation, ALA is primed to provide the tools and support that will enable librarians to more effectively fulfill this vital role.”
“People want to reengage and connect with one another,” said Richard C. Harwood, president and founder of The Harwood Institute. “They want to come back into the public square, and libraries should be a central part of that movement.”
Libraries Transforming Communities is grounded in The Harwood Institute’s approach of “turning outward,” which emphasizes changing the orientation of institutions and individuals from internal (institutional) to external (community-facing). These practices will be shared at four “Turning Outward” sessions at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and through webinars and digital resources, now available for free download at ala.org/LTC.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.
About The Harwood Institute
The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Md., that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together. The institute is guided by Richard C. Harwood, whose transformational work during the past 25 years has spread to thousands of communities nationally and worldwide, from small towns to large cities.