Nevada County Dialogue Report

Posted by Amy Garmer on November 14, 2018 at 7:00 AM

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is pleased to announce the publication of Nevada County Rising to the Challenge: Creating Pathways for Learning, Innovation, and a Resilient Community. This report of the Nevada County Dialogue on Public Libraries is the result of a collaboration between the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries and the Nevada County Community Library, with funding from the California State Library.  It is one in a series of Aspen Institute dialogues across California in 2018 that are designed to spark new thinking and action to transform libraries for the 21st century. The focal point of the project was a day-long leadership roundtable that took place at the Gold Miner’s Inn in Grass Valley, California, on August 29, 2018.

The Nevada County Community Library serves a population of just under 100,000 county residents in mostly rural Nevada County, California. This includes the foothill towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City in the western part of the county, as well as the Sierra Nevada mountain town of Truckee on the north shore of Lake Tahoe to the east. Library services are provided through six branches, a mobile library and partnerships with the San Juan Ridge Library and Chicago Park Elementary School.

Like many other communities in California, Nevada County is grappling with 21st century challenges and issues of great importance to the county’s future: jobs and economic development, education and career readiness, youth opportunities, broadband and wealth gaps, health and wellness, and civic engagement in a diversifying community. These are challenges that public libraries are responding to as they work with their communities to develop and deploy new programs and services to meet changing community needs.

This report provides a roadmap for Nevada County and other communities like it. The Nevada County Dialogue brought together elected and appointed government officials, heads of key county departments and social service agencies, local nonprofit leaders, arts and creative economy leaders, practitioners and thought leaders in technology and economic development, the superintendent of Nevada County schools, and library leaders from Nevada County, Placer County, Sutter County and the California State Library.

Dialogue participants addressed strategic opportunities for leveraging public libraries to advance a vision for the county that includes:

  • a prosperous and well-educated citizenry
  • a resilient community known for its capacity for open-mindedness
  • collaborative problem-solving
  • innovation in industry and the arts
  • equitable access to opportunities for all residents

Participants offered ideas for how library assets can be used to address county goals related to broadband access and digital literacy, early literacy and adult learning, workforce development, retaining creative talent, navigating resources for social services, civic participation, health, and wellness.

The report details a number of community-library partnerships that create pathways for nurturing a culture of learning, innovation and civic health. Three working groups looked specifically at partnerships for Lifelong Learning, Economic and Workforce Development, and Community Health and Wellness and made the following recommendations:

To nurture lifelong learning:

  • Embed library services in the lives of early learners and their families by making cards available to children of any age and waiving library fines for children 0-18 years of age.
  • Develop partnerships to extend lifelong learning services and opportunities by making connections out in the community with the school system to help with building a child development center that provides two-generation approaches to education and skills development; with county hospitals and jails where information can reach new parents and those who may be excluded from current conversations about early learning needs; and with real estate companies that can help to reach new residents about the county’s lifelong learning opportunities.

To advance economic and workforce development:

  • Create a position for a special coordinator to organize information, partnerships and events related to economic and workforce development opportunities and training. This position could create an inventory and map of such opportunities.
  • Foster stronger library partnerships with the Nevada County arts community, Sierra College, the Sierra Business Council, 2-1-1 Connecting Point, CalWorks Employment Services, local makerspaces and innovation hubs.
  • Explore ways to empower young creatives to innovate in the community so they do not feel the need to leave for larger cities with more technology and arts opportunities. Retaining this talent will help to drive quality of life and a healthy economy.
  • Use Friends of the Library organizations more effectively to tap volunteers with experience to share via library-based workforce development programs, such as teaching technical and soft job skills.

To promote community health and wellness: 

  • Survey county residents annually, inside and outside the library, about access to health and wellness information. Information learned would allow the library to tailor programs to information gaps that exist (for example, nutrition and exercise, substance abuse, Autism or Alzheimer’s information, women’s health).
  • Leverage the library as a trusted place by providing space for health professionals (doctors, nurses, other health workers) to provide important health information to the community on a regular basis, perhaps rotating through the library’s branch locations.
  • Address emotional well-being by inviting community groups without a gathering place to gather at the library for library “takeovers.” This could include youth, LGBTQIA residents, or groups formed around communities of interest.

To learn more about the issues and opportunities discussed in Nevada County, download and read the report.


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