Libraries Transforming Communities

By American Library Association

Communities have challenges. Libraries can help.

Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) — an initiative of the American Library Association — seeks to strengthen librarians’ roles as core community leaders and change-agents.

The initiative 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.

LTC will help libraries become more reflective of and connected to their communities and achieve a domino effect of positive results, including stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations, and greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health and well-being. ALA also hopes to shift public discourse away from past themes about libraries in crisis and toward talk of libraries as agents of positive community change.

About LTC

ALA’s partner in LTC is the nonprofit Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, whose “turning outward” approach emphasizes changing the orientation of institutions and individuals from internal (institutional) to external (community-facing). This process entails taking steps to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make conversations more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

LTC is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Turning Outward”

“Turning outward” emphasizes a shift in orientation from internal (library-focused) to external (community-focused). This change is achieved through practical steps: taking measures to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make your library‘s work more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

Areas of Concentration

LTC consists of three areas of concentration:

  • LTC Public Innovators Cohort: ALA has selected 10 public libraries across the country to participate in an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program. The libraries will train with community-engagement experts and apply the training to challenges in their communities.
  • Knowledge-sharing: ALA is committed to sharing LTC knowledge and resources with library professionals through conference sessions and free digital materials, including webinars, worksheets and conversation guides.
  • ALA staff training: ALA is working internally to integrate community-focused thinking and processes into our own organization.

Goals

LTC will help libraries become more reflective of and connected to their communities and achieve a domino effect of positive results, including stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations, and
greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health and well-being. ALA also hopes to shift public discourse away from past themes about libraries in crisis and toward talk of libraries as agents of positive community change.

Resources for Libraries

The tools below are designed to help libraries strengthen their role as community leaders and bring about positive change in their communities.

“Turning outward” is a step-by-step process developed by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. It entails taking steps to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make conversations more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

Taken together, these resources provide a  90-day plan to help your library “turn outward.”

We hope you find these materials useful, and we welcome your feedback. For more information about how libraries nationwide are using the tools, visit our LTC blog. For complete “turning outward” training materials—including all the tools below—download the Public Innovators Lab Workbook.

Download all the tools below in “A Step-By-Step Guide to ‘Turning Outward’ to Your Community.”

Join the conversation: The ALA Connect group, “Libraries Foster Community Engagement,” provides a community of practice for librarians to come together and share and advance ideas about library-led community engagement.

Follow the LTC blog: Visit the blog for advice and up-to-date information about all parts of the LTC initiative, including updates on the progress of the LTC Public Innovators Cohort.

Use our resources: Download free resources, including webinars, worksheets and conversation guides.

Give us feedback: Please contact us with your comments, questions and ideas.

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