Pages tagged "Community Engagement"
The Ferguson Library was undergoing leadership transition when the Aspen Institute report, Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Your Public Library, came out in October 2014. I had been president of the library for just two months. The report motivated me to work with the Connecticut State Library on hosting a public dialogue on the future of public libraries, which was held in March, 2015.
Transylvania County is a southern Appalachia community of a little over 30,000 people. We pride ourselves on having a rural mountain town feel while also having a diverse selection of education, arts and cultural opportunities. All of this is set against the backdrop of rich, natural resources that provide opportunities for recreation.
In 2025, Lewisville, Texas will celebrate a major milestone – the 100th anniversary of its founding. City officials saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask the community to do some forward thinking. “We heard from the community about what they wanted their city to look like by the year of their centennial, and we developed our Lewisville 2025 Vision Plan from that,” says Donna Barron, city manager. “The library was included as part of the inquiry, and what we heard was the desire for it to be the gathering spot for ALL members of the community. A focus on multiculturalism was discussed extensively.”
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.
Berthoud Community Library District serves a population of approximately 10,000 individuals. When I arrived in March 2016, we needed a new strategic plan, but we knew that we didn’t want a plan that focused on what the community wanted for the library, we wanted to know what the community wanted for itself. We turned to the Aspen Institute’s Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library for guidance, inspiration and support.
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 Middlebury Public Library is located in a small to medium size suburban town in Middlebury, CT. Our population is 7,575 and our budget consists of 1.4% of tax allocation and is shrinking. The Middlebury Public Library is staffed by four full-time and four part-time employees and volunteers. We are a stand-alone library that relies on our State Library for additional support.
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.
Sutter County Library, Yuba City, CA
The Action Guide really helped to get the conversation started as the Sutter County Library is just beginning plans to expand services to a community that relies heavily on an agricultural based economy. The community has often struggled with higher than average unemployment but enjoys a rich cultural heritage and a naturally beautiful environment. Many immigrants from Mexico, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan use the library’s Literacy Services classes as a resource for learning English, gaining citizenship, computer proficiency and accessing information. These classes have become a platform for adult learners and new citizens to form friendships that cross many national and cultural boundaries. Countless residents have been bringing their children to the library for generations. Students and job seekers are also regular users of services. Locally, the library has a fine reputation but there is still work to be done.