Anchor institutions (PDF) are defined as large, spatially immobile, nonprofit organizations that play an integral role in the local economy. In 2002, when Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter began discussing the potential benefit (PDF) of anchor institutions in the economic development of communities, he was referring, for the most part, to well-funded medical centers and universities that provided jobs and other benefits to the community. Since that time, there has been much discussion about the nature and purpose of anchor institutions.

During the 2000s, the idea gained currency that communities also have smaller organizations that serve as anchors. Today, it is recognized that community anchors include libraries, museums, faith-based institutions, community foundations, municipal entities, and other nonprofit organizations. In addition to the economic benefits, the mission of anchor institutions includes creating a more democratic, just, and equitable society.

In this report, we celebrate the importance of academic, school, and public libraries as proactive community anchors. Libraries are democratic community anchors with unlimited possibilities to promote education, equity, social and racial justice, place, and community.