Communities have challenges. Libraries can help.
Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) — an initiative of the American Library Association — seeks to strengthen libraries’ role as core community leaders and change-agents. The initiative addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways.
LTC helps libraries become more reflective of and connected to their communities and achieve a domino effect of positive results, including stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations, and greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health and well-being. ALA also hopes to shift public discourse away from past themes about libraries in crisis and toward talk of libraries as agents of positive community change.
Phase 1: Libraries Transforming Communities (2014-15)
In 2014, ALA partnered with the the nonprofit Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to explore how their Turning Outward approach could be used in libraries. The initiative was made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Turning Outward emphasizes a shift in orientation from internal (library-focused) to external (community-focused). This change is achieved through practical steps: taking measures to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make libraries' work more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.
LTC consisted of three areas of concentration:
- LTC Public Innovators Cohort: ALA selected 10 public libraries across the country to participate in an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program in the Harwood Institute's Turning Outward approach. The libraries trained with community-engagement experts and apply the training to challenges in their communities. Read case studies about the LTC Public Innovators Cohort.
- Knowledge-sharing: ALA committed to sharing LTC knowledge and resources with library professionals through conference sessions and free digital materials, including webinars, worksheets and conversation guides.
- ALA staff training: ALA worked internally to integrate community-focused thinking and processes into our own organization.
Phase 2: Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change (2016-18)
In December 2016, ALA announced a second phase of the initiative, Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Models for Change. The initiative was made possible through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
Offered in collaboration with the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), LTC: Models for Change invited library professionals to attend free online and in-person courses to explore various dialogue facilitation approaches and position themselves to foster conversation and lead change in their communities.
The series was offered in three parts, covering a variety established dialogue and deliberation models:
- Series 1: For public libraries serving large or urban communities
- Series 2: For academic libraries
- Series 3: For public libraries serving small, mid-sized or rural communities
We welcome your feedback! Please send your comments, questions and suggestions to ALA's Public Programs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.