LTC Blog

Libraries Transforming Communities

Root for Columbus: It Took a Village to Make Our Tree

By Cindy Fesemyer, director, Columbus Public Library

Columbus (Wis.) Public Library is one of 10 libraries taking part in an intensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. Here, Cindy Fesemyer describes the Root for Columbus project, in which her library is sending a “wishing tree” around town to collect residents’ aspirations for Columbus. Not only is the exercise getting people thinking, but it’ll result in data that will help the library in the next phase of the process: tackling the challenges that are most important to residents.

Root for Columbus: A place where everyone is respected for who they are

"Skokie Library Sets Sights on Engaging Community More"

Skokie (Ill.) Public Library was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times' Skokie Review recently for its work convening Harwood Institute-style community conversations.
The library -- which has taken part in two ALA/Harwood Institute Public Innovators Labs in 2013 and 2014 -- is hosting a series of private and public gatherings to learn about their residents' aspirations.
"We're really focused on listening to what the community wants -- the kind fo community they want to live in -- and then using that information to help drive our planning and the kind of partnerships we engage in and the kind of initiatives we participate in," librarian Susan Carlton, manager of the Community Engagement Department, told the newspaper.


New Resources Available: Partner Selection and Managing Relationships

Selecting the correct partners -- and keeping those relationships positive and productive -- is essential to the "turning outward" process. A new archived webinar is now available to help you forge and maintain these connections.

More tools, including webinars, conversation guides and worksheets, are available on the "Resources for Libraries" page.

New Resources Available: Holding Innovation Spaces

As you use the "turning outward" approach, it is important to bring your team together to discuss and reinforce what you are learning. Held every four weeks, these meetings offer an opportunity to ask "what are we learning?" — instead of “what are we doing?” This process helps you reflect and maintain a turned-outward mindset.

Two new resources are now available to help you hold these gatherings:

San Jose Public Library: Navigating a Community Conversation with Language Barriers

San José Public Library is part of the Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovators Cohort, a group of 10 public libraries chosen to undergo an extensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. Here, librarian Randall Studstill describes his team’s experience hosting a community conversation with non-native English speakers. (For tools and webinars about hosting community conversations, visit Resources for Libraries.)


"Share a Coke": A Creative Tip for Getting Staff Involved

One of the first steps in the “turning outward” approach is to convene conversations with members of your own organization. Several Harwood Institute tools — including Aspirations, Turn Outward and Intentionality — are designed to help teams assess their current community engagement efforts and shift their orientation from internal (putting their institution first) to external (putting their community first).

'Turning Outward' in Practice: Q&A with Jill Skwerski of Evanston Public Library

Jill Skweski, Evanston (Ill.) Public LibraryLibraries around the country are already putting the “turning outward” approach to work in their communities. Jill Skwerski is a community engagement librarian at Evanston (Ill.) Public Library; in October 2013, she attended a Harwood Institute Public Innovators Lab with members of her staff. Here, she tells ALA her library’s experience with the Harwood Institute’s “turning outward” approach. (Access the resources Skwerski mentions with the links below, or visit Resources for Library Professionals.

New Resources Available: Community Conversations and Theming

In the "turning outward" approach, community conversations are a way to tap into your community's aspirations and concerns. These conversations consist of 10 questions, last 90 minutes to two hours, and are designed for groups of 6 to 15 people. The goal is to authentically engage members of the community and generate Public Knowledge that can be used to inform decision-making of all kinds.

San José Public Library on Using the Aspirations Exercise

San José Public Library is part of the Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovators Cohort, a group of 10 public libraries chosen to undergo an extensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. In May, a team of five San José librarians and community partners attended a three-day training taught by Harwood Institute educators in Denver. Here, librarian Randall Studstill describes his team’s experience bringing that training home to his entire library. (Access all the resources Studstill mentions with the links below, or visit Resources for Library Professionals.)

'Turning Outward' in Practice: Q&A with Alice Knapp of Ferguson Library

Libraries around the country are already putting the “turning outward” approach to work in their communities. Alice Knapp is interim president at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn.; in October 2013, she attended a Harwood Institute Public Innovators Lab. Here, Knapp tells ALA about her library’s experience with the “turning outward” approach. (Access all the resources Knapp mentions with the links below, or visit Resources for Library Professionals.)

How were you introduced to the Harwood Institute’s approach?

New Resources Available: "Doing Business with the Media"

The media -- and your relationship with it -- can have a great impact on the success of your community engagement work. It is a tool for bringing new voices into community conversations, sharing findings, and demonstrating the valuable work libraries are undertaking.

But a productive relationship with the media requires more than just dashing off a press release or showing up to an interview. Forethought makes all the difference.

The Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) Public Innovators Cohort participated in a webinar this week with media trainer Anne Gallagher, partner at Chicago's Extreme Marketing, to learn to craft and share messaging about their community engagement work.

Like all LTC resources, the webinar -- "Doing Business with the Media" -- is free and available to the public. Access it here:

Learn to "Turn Outward" at ALA 2014 Annual Conference

The 2014 ALA Annual Conference is fast approaching.

Among the new offerings this year: a series of learning sessions, offered as part of Libraries Transforming Communities, that will introduce participants to the practice of "turning outward" and putting community aspirations first.

In four “Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community” sessions, conference-goers will gain practical tools to aid in decision-making, planning and group facilitation, and will discuss how to remain engaged and rejuvenated both on and off the job. Each stand-alone session focuses on a single tool; taken together, they become a powerful framework for engaging community and leading change.

The four part are:

New Resources Available: LTC Cohort Training Materials

The LTC Public Innovators Cohort -- the 10 libraries being intensely trained in the Harwood practice and putting it to work in their communities -- completed a three-day training in Denver last month. All of their training materials are now available for free download.

The LTC Public Innovators Cohort Training Resources contains 79 pages of instructions and worksheets. Topics include:

LTC Public Innovators Cohort: Aspirations

Today marks an important day in the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative: the first gathering of the Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovators Cohort.

Forty-four participants -- library directors, librarians, outreach specialists, trustees, community volunteers and organizational partners -- convened in downtown Denver on May 20 for a three-day training with ALA and educators from The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. They come from communities as small as Red Hook, N.Y., a village of 1,900 in upstate New York, and as large as Los Angeles. Some have years of experience with library-led community engagement and innovation; others are new to the field. Interestingly, it came out during introductions that many of the participants came to the library profession as a second, or even third, career.

ALA Executive Director on LTC: "A Project for ALA and All Types of Libraries"

ALA Executive Director Kieth FielsIn this month's American Libraries magazine, ALA Executive Director Keith Fiels describes how the association is supporting library-led community engagement and innovation to spark "increased innovation, increased impact, and ultimately, a more successful community—and a more successful library."


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