Libraries Respond: 10 Things Your Library Can Do for 2017 and Beyond

Libraries Respond

During difficult times, our nation’s 120,000+ public, academic, school, and special libraries are invaluable allies inspiring understanding and community healing. ALA has developed this document as a starting point to help you address current events and support all the members of your community, especially those in the most need. Think of this page as a menu of options, and scan through it to determine which topics are the best fit for your library to explore. We encourage you to share your ideas and stories online via #LibrariesRespond.


1.      Practice Self-care

Self-care is a fundamentally important component of our work in libraries, as we must take care of ourselves before we can effectively help our communities. Take advantage of employee assistance programs and check out these resources:

2.      Seek out Professional Development

ALA and its units offer a wide range of resources, including articles, tips, tools, model practices, and webcasts – as well as library-related online learning opportunities.  Visit and check out these other resources:

3.      Stay Informed & Connected

Strive to stay current with national, state, and local level activities. To keep up with national matters that impact libraries or your patrons, join the ALA Public Policy and Advocacy office's mailing list at For state matters, visit your state library association’s web site to see if they provide regular updates on advocacy issues, or check out to find out about current legislation, track the progress of bills and more. Apps like Congress, Countable, and iCitizen can also help. Consider teaming up with a co-worker and divide the responsibility of monitoring communication channels. Locally, take time to chat and meet with colleagues, read internal communications, and consider organizing local meet-ups. If you need help planning a meet-up, consult this free guide from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):


4. Review Your Library’s Policies and Procedures

As a starting point, refresh your knowledge of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom policy and its supporting statements, including these sections: Interpretations, The Freedom to Read Statement and Libraries: an American Value

Work with co-workers to conduct a general review of all policies to make sure they’re consistent and fair across different types of patrons and inclusive of all. Then review and update your library’s policies and values, as needed, including a Code of Ethics, Collection Development policy, Request for Reconsideration, Internet Use, Use of Meeting Rooms and Exhibit Spaces, User Behavior and Library Use, and a Privacy & Confidentiality policy (check out this Privacy Toolkit for resources). 

5. Ensure Your Library is a Welcoming Environment

Your library is committed to ensuring a safe place for all that reflects and serves the diversity of our nation. Be proactive in showing the community that your library is welcoming to all. From simply looking at your library and improving signage, to staff training and new programming, here are some steps your library can take.

  • Broadcast that your library is welcoming. Beginning with the exterior of the building, walk-through the library or assign a staff member to do so, and reflect on where and how your library is communicating its message of equal access and support. Repeat the process with your library’s web presence. Consider creating and posting messages outside and inside your library as well as online to trumpet your library’s values and support for diversity and equal access. Use your ALA community to find out what peers are doing, such as this sign created by the Denver Public Library, or efforts of North Carolina libraries to show their doors are open to all, as detailed in this May 2016 article from Library Journal. Visit the ALA Store and consider the various that demonstrate that the library is a diverse and multilingual space. 
  • Use diverse and inclusive subject headings and metadata, and provide cultural context in catalogs. Feel free to review presentation slides from the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS): 

6. Strive for Strong Communication

Regular internal communication is always important and it can help you identify allies and collaborators.   Find out what others in your department, library, system or consortia are doing, and practice active listening.  Share out your own efforts, emphasizing how they connect with your colleague’s.  Find some common ground that you can work on together to increase your impact.  When reaching out, be clear about what your needs and goals are: are you looking for a sympathetic ear? A sounding board? A collaborator?  A mentor?  Something else?  If needed, work to set up a communication channel to facilitate information and idea sharing, perhaps around a particular topic.  Free tools like Slack may come in handy.


7. Identify and Share Resources

Gather and share resources, especially those that support any vulnerable populations. Start at the ODLOS site: Recent topics of national concern have included individuals’ rights relating to topics such as health care, immigration, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Connect with local organizations and agencies to identify helpful resources, and if you identify any gaps in your collection during your information gathering, work to eliminate them. When you’re determining things like format and the best way to disseminate resources, keep in mind the segment(s) of the community you’re trying to reach. Think beyond the traditional bulletin board and book displays, and be sure to leverage online tools. And don’t forget about human resources! There may be co-workers and community members who can serve as ‘living books,’ coaches, mentors, and more. For inspiration, check out

For communities that include immigrants and refugees, the resources from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) via their national initiative focused on serving New Americans may be of use. ALA also recently published a white paper on library services and new Americans

8. Plan Programs and Services

Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change is an ALA initiative that will introduce libraries to various dialogue and deliberation approaches to help libraries of all types bring disparate opinions to the table and lead conversations in their communities. 

For youth-focused programming, check out the ready-to-use materials at and YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ (

For general programming resources, check out the Programming Librarian site ( and, read this Programming Librarian article that highlights several library programs held in the days immediately following the election:


9. Create an Advocacy Plan

Advocacy is all about building relationships, and there’s no time like the present to cultivate new allies and strengthen existing relationships. Activities to start building relationships can include:

  • Being an ambassador for your library. Can you tell your library’s stories to anyone, anywhere?
  • Creating partnerships with staff at other types of libraries in your community. Understand how you can help one another and strengthen the library ecosystem.
  • Getting outside your library. How much do you know about the needs of your community (or campus, or school)? Meet with others in the community and facilitate community conversations.

Before you get started on your advocacy efforts, sit down and create an advocacy plan based on the needs of your community. Having a plan in place will ensure you’re making the best use of your limited time and resources, while also making the most impact possible. For help in putting together a plan, check out the resources on the ALA site at

10. Identify and Reach out to Community Allies and partners

Libraries may be considered the quintessential community hub—a cross-disciplinary intersection for our diverse patrons and partners. One broad approach is demonstrated through the PPO work with the Harwood Institute under the banner of Libraries Transforming Communities. Resources to help convene community conversations as a starting point to collective actions are available here:

A more targeted approach is creating or enhancing relationships with community organizations that can strengthen our reach to and support of vulnerable populations. This could be places of worship, immigrant aid organizations, or legal services groups. Public Libraries Online also offers a range of articles related to community partnerships here: IMLS also offers resources and recommendations in its Engaging Communities Report national initiative focused on serving New Americans: