Free six-part online learning series teaches libraries to lead positive change

For Immediate Release
Tue, 03/24/2015


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office


CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) invites library professionals to view a free, six-part online course designed to help libraries strengthen their role as core community leaders and work with residents to bring about positive change.

Led by educators from The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, the webinars explain, step by step, how to use the “turning outward” approach inside and outside your library. The approach emphasizes taking steps to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make conversations more community-focused; becoming more proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

Libraries and library professionals around the country are using the “turning outward” approach to:

  • lead conversations with community members to better understand their goals and concerns;
  • develop library strategic plans that benefit the library and the greater community;
  • connect with underserved segments of the library’s service area;
  • overcome political gridlock; and
  • create professional development opportunities that meet the library system’s needs.

All six webinars are available on YouTube and at The recordings range from 40 to 90 minutes in length, and they link to related worksheets, facilitators’ guides and sample materials.

  • “Hosting and Leading Community Conversations” describes the process of planning and facilitating community conversations, gatherings with community members to discuss their hopes for their community and challenges to realizing those goals. Topics include meeting “ground rules,” how to be an effective facilitator, note-taking and follow-up.
  • Theming and Using Public Knowledge” explains how to organize, understand and share “public knowledge,” the insights collected from community conversations. Topics include organizing notes, identifying prevalent themes, creating effective partnerships and moving toward action.
  • “Calibrating Community Conditions” describes the first step in moving from public knowledge to action. Topics include identifying your community’s “stage” — its readiness for and receptivity to change — and determining a course to meet your community “where it’s at.”
  • Featuring interviews with Harwood Institute founder Rich Harwood and individuals who have utilized the “turning outward” approach, “Sweet Spot of Public Life” discusses making strategic choices for action and building and sustaining momentum.

The webinars — offered as part of ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative — were originally broadcast for the LTC Public Innovators Cohort, a group of 10 public libraries chosen to undergo an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program. Through in-person training and distance learning, the libraries are putting the “turning outward” approach to work in their communities.

All training materials developed as part of LTC are available to all libraries, free of charge. For a full list of resources, as well as a “Step-by-Step Guide to ‘Turning Outward’ to Your Community,” visit

About Libraries Transforming Communities

Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) is an ALA initiative that seeks to strengthen libraries’ roles as core community leaders and change-agents. LTC addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for libraries to engage with their communities in new ways. As a result, ALA believes libraries will become more reflective of and connected to their communities and build stronger partnerships with local civic agencies, nonprofits, funders and corporations. The initiative is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Md., that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together. The institute is guided by Richard C. Harwood, whose transformational work during the past 25 years has spread to thousands of communities nationally and worldwide, from small towns to large cities.