Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries Ends 7-Year Run

Posted by Amy Garmer on January 08, 2020 at 12:40 PM

The end of 2019 marks the conclusion of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries. When we launched the Dialogue on Public Libraries in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Program in 2013, we set out to propose a renewed vision for public libraries in the United States; to drive new thinking and action on libraries as critical partners in creating healthy, vibrant and well-informed communities; and to expand the cadre of stakeholders outside of libraries who champion the vital role played by libraries in their communities and the nation.

Over the past six and a half years, the Dialogue on Public Libraries has created unique opportunities for community leaders, innovators and institutional partners to collaborate on developing next generation initiatives for libraries across the country. We are proud of our accomplishments in achieving the following goals:

  • The vision of public libraries grounded in people, place and platform is captured in our highly acclaimed 2014 report, Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries.
  • Five library-community dialogue models were developed through in-depth partnerships in Connecticut, Colorado, California, Florida and Houston, Texas with templates and resources freely available for uptake and use in other communities.
  • There is a growing community of practice built around an innovation toolkit (Aspen Institute Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library), the website, and a network of champions and partners who are adapting, mixing, innovating (and improving) with these resources. To date, there have been more than 3,600 downloads of the Action Guide from the website, with a reach to 43 countries.
  • We designed and published original research with the International City/County Management Association updating work that was last done a decade ago.
  • We explored new possibilities for the role of public libraries on California’s high-speed research and education network, CalREN/CENIC, with lessons for other states.
  • We convened three national forums, two state forums and six local forums, and advised on the creation of countless additional gatherings with the participation of governors, mayors, other state and local government leaders, and leaders and entrepreneurs from business, education, civil society organizations and philanthropy. These forums have catalyzed projects aimed at building individual and community health and wealth, aligning assets to nurture local cultures of innovation, leveraging local partnerships for economic opportunity, workforce development, health literacy, civic participation and lifelong learning.

Along the way, we have worked with many smart, talented librarians and other leaders, practitioners and citizens committed to the essential idea that public libraries are the great societal equalizer and recognize that libraries are more important than ever in an era of digital technologies and information abundance. It has been an honor to shine a spotlight on the innovative work that librarians and libraries are doing and the ways in which this work is making a real difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities in this country.

The Communications & Society Program will continue to maintain the suite of resources from the Dialogue on Public Libraries on the website, with some reports also available on the microsite.

Wishing you every success in 2020 and beyond.


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