Pages tagged "Building Partnerships"
Whether witnessing the Northern Lights, reading an inspiring article, attending a world premier opera, dining at a pioneering new restaurant or swimming with sharks; these moments are etched in my mind and filed away as memories to be cherished again and again. Why? Because they made every cell vibrate with life. Often the best moments in life are those we experience on multiple levels --- mind, body and senses powerfully engaged.
How is it that moments that engage on both the cerebral and corporeal level are the foundation of learning? How do we create the opportunities that keep us coming back for more? How do we consistently offer this opportunity and the discovery inherent in education? How do we continually provide the same stimulation that lives permanently in our memory and informs future endeavors? The path lies in the way we create learning spaces - vibrant learning spaces, to be specific. Spaces pulsating with energy and excitement. If we carefully curate the space, providing the proper mix of tools, resources and inspiration, the full experience of learning will occur more rapidly and more frequently.
At Heart of America (HOA) we know that learning can happen at any moment but the right space is an imperative. For the past 20 years, we have explored and tackled this issue, learning throughout our journey. Our work has transformed small and large learning spaces in schools, community centers and public libraries – sometimes through complete overhauls and sometimes through thoughtful adjustments to elements already there, always with the goal of vibrancy in mind as that is what stimulates and captivates. That is the engine.
Today’s libraries should reflect how we ideate, ruminate and ultimately discover in our constantly evolving environment. Libraries must embrace more active and diverse ways of encouraging and allowing education to happen. Libraries were created as learning environments, but as time went on, all too often their lack of funding or lack of understanding of how to keep step with the world outside their doors, ultimately created a situation in which they remained still while the world rushed by at a dizzying pace.
The amazing and not unexpected reality is libraries continue in many ways to own the potential to be best-in-class learning environments. How? By embracing their ability to be a strategic inventory of digital and print information, creation spaces, art museums, learning labs, open collaboration areas, technology hubs and makerspaces. These vital municipal spaces should be a beacon of light for our neighborhoods, our schools, and all types of community groups by creating spaces that beckon, entice and cajole entry.
Years of experience and experimentation has taught our HOA team how to design vibrant learning spaces and libraries. The secret sauce? Orchestrate a true community effort incorporating the following six steps:
- LISTEN: Listen to the stakeholders who use, work in and manage the library to understand how and why they use it; ask what would elevate their learning, what would make their job easier?
- INVENTORY: Catalogue current inventory of books, technology, art, materials; who are the users (demographics, languages, occupations, etc.).
- OBSERVE: Watch traffic flow; note the types of activities that take place in the library; where are the active spaces and where are the quiet? Is the space conducive for multiple types of learning styles – solo and group?
- DREAM: Think and design BIG with library stakeholders and community members; reimagine new learning environments; create an equipment and resource wish-list; brainstorm and sketch out an ideal library.
- BUILD: Engage local funders, donors, sponsors, partners who live, work and grow in the community; utilize local trades, artists, designers to build the dream.
- NOURISH: Continue to update resources and assess Library progress with community stakeholders and engage Library partners.
In celebration of HOA’s 20th anniversary, we want to share, excite and engage communities across the nation. To do this, we are hosting an interactive and stimulating discussion series focused on the evolution of learning spaces, including libraries. Join us. Contribute to our communities with us. Whether in person or via podcast, please be an active part of the conversation to help advance our collective work on creating vibrant learning environments throughout our country.
Jill Hardy Heath
President & CEO
The Heart of America Foundation
The Southern Adirondack Library System (SALS) is a cooperative system with 34 member libraries serving a four-county area – Saratoga, Warren, Washington and Hamilton counties – in New York. Each library has its own budget, board and policies. The smallest community library in the cooperative serves a population of 114, and the largest serves a population of 58,000.
SALS provides connections and resources to small and rural libraries that enable them to take steps to engage their communities and to develop plans and programming based on needs rather than what’s always been done.
The Topeka Shawnee County Public Library (TSCPL) in Topeka, Kansas incorporated elements from the Rising to the Challenge vision report in a series of community conversations in the spring and summer of 2015. The conversations were co-convened with Heartland Visioning, a multi-year initiative that provides a community-wide forum to give voice to resident’s concerns and aspirations, verify community priorities, convene public and private partnerships and communicate with the public. The library used these community engagement events to seek community input as part of the library’s strategic planning process.
The Columbus Public Library in Wisconsin is a small city of about 5,000 people. The library serves an additional 10,000 people from rural areas around our small city. We have deep historical roots in agriculture and manufacturing. We are quickly becoming a bedroom town for neighboring Madison, home of the State Capitol and University of Wisconsin- Madison and need to serve the needs of this more modern, innovative population, as well.
Pine River Public Library, Pine River, CO
The Pine River Public Library is located in rural, Southwest Colorado, 20 miles east of Durango. The library district serves over 1,800 people in the small town of Bayfield plus an additional 6,500 in the surrounding areas.
Cedar Rapids Public Library, Cedar Rapids, IA
The Cedar Rapids Public Library serves a population of around 128,000, the second largest city in Iowa. We began the pilot project with the Action Guide as we embarked on putting a tax levy before our voters for library support. The Action Guide helped us identify our stakeholders and develop relationships with partners across the city. As the tax levy was defeated, we were able to use the SOAR exercise to help staff and trustees focus on the future of the library.
New Braunfels Public Library, New Braunfels, TX
Working through the exercises in the Action Guide was so much more beneficial than we originally believed possible. We identified several new issues in two main areas - services to patrons groups that had not previously been identified, i.e. - the resource challenged patrons and services to patron groups that we had identified and addressed but through change were no longer being served as well, i.e. - employment seekers.
At the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we work to promote informed and engaged communities in a variety of sectors, including journalism, technology, and the arts. I work directly in 18 of the 26 Knight communities, places where I see the critical impact libraries can have on civic life. This means I get to work with libraries of all shapes and sizes across the country. I learned a lot this past year, and here are some of the trends I am seeing:
*Editor’s note: This blog is written in response to the recent Aspen Institute, International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the Public Library Association (PLA) survey analysis, “Role of Libraries in Advancing Community Goals.” The analysis is based on data from the “Local Libraries Advancing Community Goals, 2016”, a report detailing results of a nationwide survey of nearly 2,000 chief administrative offices of local governments focused on the evolving role of public libraries in advancing community goals.
Today, The Aspen Institute, in partnership with International City/County Management Association (ICMA), and the Public Library Association (PLA), released Local Libraries Advancing Community Goals, 2016, a report detailing results of a nationwide survey of nearly 2,000 chief administrative offices of local governments focused on the evolving role of public libraries in advancing community goals.
The survey reveals that local government leaders envision public libraries as a key resource to support their communities’ education and digital inclusion goals while indicating interest in exploring new roles for libraries to address other community priorities. These findings resonate with the vision contained in Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries and point the way to new opportunities for local government leaders and library leaders to engage in collaborative work to strengthen and support the transformation of public libraries.
The survey was conducted as part of the Aspen Institute’s Dialogue on Public Libraries and updates the last ICMA survey on libraries from 2010.
Local Libraries Advancing Community Goals, 2016, highlights three specific areas of opportunity for library and local government leaders to work together more closely: collaborating on community priorities, engaging in active information sharing and communication about community issues, and seeking additional funding sources to enable libraries to expand programming and services.
Survey results also reveal the following as the top five community priorities, ranked high or very high, as areas where local government leaders see libraries playing an important role:
- access to high-speed Internet service (73%)
- digital literacy (65%)
- early childhood education (65%)
- primary and secondary school attainment (59%)
- online learning/virtual learning (52%)
These priorities align well with areas of focus and development for public libraries under a series of initiatives led by PLA and its partners, including DigitalLearn.org, Every Child Ready to Read, and new research related to family engagement through libraries by the Harvard Family Research Project. PLA’s Project Outcome initiative helps libraries measure the impact of programs like these in communities nationwide to better inform service improvements and collaborations with local partners.
The release is accompanied by additional analysis on key factors influencing local government responses in a supplemental report, The Role of Libraries in Advancing Community Goals, by independent researcher John B. Horrigan, PhD, who led the research shop during development of the National Broadband Plan and is noted for his expertise on broadband growth, digital literacy and libraries.
While libraries are viewed by local government leaders as having an important role in the community, according to Horrigan’s analysis, their engagement with library leadership and resources is influenced by three major factors: an existing governing relationship, general fund support for the library, and a population greater than 100,000.
Among Horrigan’s other findings, communication between local government leaders and library leaders is higher when there is a governing or funding relationship. “Some 56% of libraries with a governing relationship are invited often or very often to discussions about local issues compared with 38% of all respondents,” notes Horrigan, who says this holds true for libraries that receive funding allocations from the general fund (51%) and in communities with populations of 100,000 people or more (52%). Library funding also was an important topic addressed in the survey.
We asked John to compare the responses to four questions included on the ICMA survey that the Pew Research Center also has asked in its surveys of Americans 16 years and older regarding services the library should be providing. We were curious if local government leaders would see the role of public libraries differently from the general public. Horrigan’s analysis shows that strong majorities of local government leaders and the public think that libraries should coordinate more closely with schools and that libraries should provide technology and resources in makerspaces. However, the analysis indicates that “a disconnect emerges for training for the digital world,” with just under half of local government respondents saying that libraries should offer programs to help people protect their privacy and security online while three-quarters of the public thinks that libraries should definitely do this.
To read the complete results of the ICMA survey, go to: www.icma.org/2016librariessurveyreport. To read the summary report of John Horrigan’s analysis, go to: http://as.pn/icmasurvey. I also will be discussing the survey with a panel of library leaders at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, Sunday, January 22, at 3 PM.
And here are some additional great resources for learning more, courtesy of PLA:
Videos showcasing how libraries support education, employment, entrepreneurship and more: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD9DUiXzel3qpNrj2Rqi1bg/videos
Public and school libraries help students get Ready to Code: http://www.districtdispatch.org/2016/12/new-libraries-ready-to-code-video/ and
Entrepreneurship: http://www.ala.org/news/sites/ala.org.news/files/content/ALA-SmallBizEntrep-2016Nov10.pdf and http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/ALA_Entrepreneurship_White_Paper_Final.pdf