Libraries Transforming Communities Blog

Libraries Transforming Communities

Suffolk (Va.) Public Library: Turning Outward to Chuckatuck

Suffolk (Va.) Public Library is one of 10 libraries that took part in an intensive 18-month training in the Turning Outward approach as part of ALA's Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative. Here, Assistant Director Sarah Townsend shares how and why her library took on new community engagement strategies and how they're changing the library's culture.

Sarah Townsend

American Library Association: What was your library doing before its involvement with Libraries Transforming Communities?

Sarah Townsend: Before the training, our library was really good at serving the people who already visited the library. But we weren’t actively trying to find people who weren’t coming through our doors.

Transforming School Communities: An Interview with Blue Valley High School's Ken Stewart

In 2014, a partnership between the American Library Association (ALA) and The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation resulted in Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), an ALA initiative that provides resources, training and support for libraries to engage with their communities in new ways using the Harwood Institute's "turning outward" approach. Since then, dozens of libraries across the country — mainly public and academic libraries — have started using these tools to communicate, partner and lead more effectively. Ken Stewart of Blue Valley (Kan.) High School has put the LTC tools to work in his school library — with significant results for his library, his school community and him personally. We chatted with Stewart about how he is using the “turning outward” approach and why he thinks it’s a fit for the K-12 world.

Getting Started with the Harwood Approach

Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Public Library is one of 10 public libraries that comprise the Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovators Cohort. Here, Library Associate Larry Boothe (shown below, at right) shares his tips for getting acquainted with the "turning outward" approach.

The Tuscaloosa Public Library LTC team: Marti Ball, Vince Bellofatto, Amy Patton, Rick Freemon, Pamela Williamson and blog author Larry Boothe


Columbus (Wis.) Public Library Gets Benched

By Alison Marcotte, Editorial Intern, American Libraries
Almost a year after Columbus (Wis.) Public Library developed its “Root for Columbus” campaign in October 2014, the city is sitting on the bench—art benches, that is.

Brenna Johnston (left) and her grandmother Teresa Sumnicht are two local artists who helped create benches for Columbus (Wis.) Public Library’s pilot program. Photo: Columbus Public Library

13 Indiana Libraries Receive Scholarship from MCLS to Attend Harwood/ALA Public Innovators Lab

LANSING, Mich. — The Midwest Collaborative for Library Services (MCLS) has announced that 23 individuals from 13 Indiana libraries were selected to receive a scholarship from MCLS to attend the 2015 Harwood/ALA Public Innovators Lab for Libraries in Detroit, Mich., October 14-16.

The funds were made available to MCLS member libraries through a grant program established by the MCLS Board of Trustees from the proceeds of the sale of the former INCOLSA building in Indiana. 

The Harwood Public Innovators Lab is a 2.5-day experience to help libraries learn what it means to turn outward – to use the community as your reference point for choices and action. The lab is part of the American Library Association’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, a national plan to help librarians strengthen their role as core community leaders and change-agents.

Want to Know Your Community? Get Outside

Springfield (Mass.) City Library is one of 10 libraries taking part in an intensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. Here, Mason Square Branch Supervisor Ted McCoy talks about the importance of getting outside in your community.


As a newly minted branch manager, I certainly appreciate having as much time as possible in my branch to take care of my patrons and to tackle the seemingly inexhaustible volume of planning and programming. But turning outward is integral to our focus as an LTC library, and going outside our branch walls fulfills that mission.

One Year Later: An Interview with Ferguson (Mo.) Library Director Scott Bonner

Aug. 9 marks one year since police in Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown. With the anniversary looming this Sunday, Ferguson Municipal Public Library Director Scott Bonner is hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. Bonner, who has received awards for providing a safe harbor for residents during the Ferguson protests, spoke to us about how the past year has changed his library.

Yellow paper sign in plastic holder. Sign reads: "During difficult times, the library is a quiet oasis where we can catch our breath, learn, and think about what to do next. Please help keep our oasis peaceful and serene. Thank you!  ALA: How are you feeling about the anniversary?

Red Hook Makes: From Borrowed Van to Mobile Maker Lab

Photo by Sara Dunn, River Chronicle

Red Hook (N.Y.) Public Library is one of 10 libraries taking part in an intensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. Here, library director Erica Freudenberger describes how her library's work with the Harwood Institute is helping them step outside their normal routine and bring services to those who need them. (Photos by Sara Dunn, River Chronicle.)

Learn to Lead Positive Community Change at ALA 2015

All communities have challenges. Libraries are uniquely positioned to help conquer them — given the right tools.

ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition: San Francisco, June 25-30, 2015

Join ALA and The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation at ALA's 2015 Annual Conference on Saturday, June 27, for a series of four learning sessions to teach libraries to leverage their trusted position in the community to engage people on issues that matter. (Register now.)

“Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community” will demonstrate practical tools to aid in decision-making, facilitation and leadership. Each stand-alone session focuses on a single tool; taken together, they become a powerful framework for engaging community and leading change.

Attend one session or all four:

ALA invites member feedback at Kitchen Table Conversations at 2015 Annual Conference

As part of an ongoing effort to improve member experience, the American Library Association (ALA) will host a series of gatherings at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition to receive feedback about how it is communicating with current and prospective members.

In the 90-minute Kitchen Table Conversations, ALA staff and member leaders will ask volunteers a series of open-ended questions about their interactions with ALA. Topics may include joining and renewing, streamlining email communications, and how ALA can help members get the information they need. A note-taker will be present to record comments, but they will be kept anonymous.

The conference will be held June 25 to 30 at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

The Kitchen Table Conversations are open to all conference-goers, regardless of membership status, and will be held at the following times. All gatherings will take place in the Marriott Marquis San Francisco Walnut room. (Follow the links to add the times to your Scheduler.)

Politicking the Delicate Balance between Tradition and Change

Columbus (Wis.) Public Library is one of 10 libraries taking part in an intensive 18-month training in the “turning outward” approach. Here, Library Director Cindy Fesemyer talks about how her library is getting communication flowing between different factions of her changing town.

Springfield City Library: Turning Outward to Fight Violence

Springfield (Massachusetts) City 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, Mason Square Branch Supervisor Jeff Lambert discusses how the training has led to programs to combat violence.

Close the Book on Hunger: Knox County Public Library's Food Drive Success

Knox County (Indiana) 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, Library Director Emily Bunyan describes how informal conversations with Internet users led to a successful food drive.

The Close the Book on Hunger food drive was conducted in June 2014 and was the most successful food drive we’ve ever conducted. In Harwood labs in which I’ve participated, offered both for United Way and Libraries Transforming Communities, I’ve been reminded that "turning outward" is an approach, a way of thinking that becomes a natural part of the thought process. Here’s an example from the Knox County Public Library (KCPL). 

Ferguson Library Director Gets Standing Ovation at ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting

Scott Bonner speaks at ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting

Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library in Ferguson, Mo., didn't expect to find his library in a crisis situation. And he certainly didn't have time to prepare.

On Sunday, Feb. 2, at ALA's 2015 Midwinter Meeting, Bonner shared his experiences leading his library through the chaos that followed the August 9 police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. (Listen to the audio of Bonner's presentation.)

Ferguson Library Director to Speak at ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting

Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library

Libraries and their staffs are agents of positive community change, even under the most challenging and tension-filled circumstances.

Ferguson (Missouri) Municipal Public Library Director Scott Bonner will discuss the recent turmoil in his community — and how the library managed to lead through it — at the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2015 Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Chicago.


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