Libraries Transforming Rural Communities: How Aspen Institute Resources Can Help

Posted by Dominique Harrison on March 06, 2018 at 12:13 AM

Rural libraries in America have the opportunity to support local initiatives to address challenges in their communities. Many of these small towns face issues of unemployment, low economic growth rates, lack of sufficient medical care, and low levels of educational attainment. Rural libraries can provide solutions to these unique concerns.

Some rural libraries are using tools created by the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries to help transform their communities. The Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library, Version 2.0 offers a set of resources for convening a community dialogue and helping communities take action. By using assets of the library and building partnerships with local organizations, community leaders are developing plans for action to re-envision their libraries and create change in their communities.

There are a number of resources on to help rural libraries and communities get started:

Communities Stories

Out of the Box and into The Community, by Jaime Laughter, County Manager, Transylvania County, and Anna L. Yount, Library Director, Transylvania County Library, explores how the library and the local government came together to develop a strategic plan with a results-based model to align the library’s work with community goals.


The webinar, Public Library Innovations: A Story of Community Engagement, is for local government and library leaders interested in designing more effective strategies for aligning library services with community priorities. It offers techniques and models for engaging a broad cross section of community stakeholders to help define a vision for the library that aligns with the vision for the community, and to shape the activities that will help you get there.

Dialogue Models

The Sutter County Dialogue on Public Libraries offers a model for rural/small town communities to address issues and opportunities for economic development and jobs, education, youth opportunities, health and poverty (including homelessness), public safety, and civic engagement. The report of the Sutter Dialogue offers recommendations on how elected leaders and residents can work together to leverage the expertise and assets of the library in new ways to advance community priorities.

Don’t know where to start? Start here: Three Steps to Transforming Your Library and Community.

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