For immediate release | July 18, 2013

The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities tools support library-led community engagement and innovation

ALA and the Harwood Institute roll out tools at 2013 ALA Annual Conference

CHICAGO — Attendees at the recent 2013 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago got a first look at an array of tools produced to assist libraries with community engagement and innovation as part of The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities. ALA has partnered with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation for this multiphase initiative to develop a sustainable national plan to advance community engagement and innovation and transform the role of libraries in their communities. The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has been made possible with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The tools were debuted at a session attended by more than 130 participants at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference and led by the Harwood Institute's Cheryl Gorman, vice president of national programs and a Harwood mentor coach, and Carlton Sears, a Harwood certified coach and past director of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (Ohio). These Harwood Institute tools shared as part of The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities project include:

  • Turn Outward: Are you mostly “turned inward or outward?" Librarians may use this tool to assess the focus of their efforts in the community as they further shift their orientation from internal to external;
  • Aspirations: This tool helps librarians to focus on their community’s aspirations, identify next steps for creating change and to create an aspirations-based story for their community as a starting point for library action;
  • Intentionality: Librarians may use this tool to test the external orientation and mindfulness of their community engagement choices and decisions;
  • Sustaining Yourself: This tool helps librarians to personally map the components that feed their motivation and commitment for community work;
  • How Librarians and Libraries Can Lead Community Conversations for Change: This conversation guide, inspired by "The Work of Hope" by Richard C. Harwood, provides a step-by-step plan for librarians to convene small group community conversations about shared aspirations and to share their findings with the community. A webinar on this conversation guide, presented in June 2013, is archived and accessible through the project web page.

Additional resources and information on the initiative can be found on the project Libraries Transforming Communities Web page.

The ALA Public Programs Office (PPO) is managing this initiative. PPO supports cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service in all types and sizes of libraries. Recent library-led community engagement programming initiatives have included Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion and Engage! Teens, Art and Civic Engagement, as well as Let’s Talk About It reading and discussion series, traveling exhibitions, film discussion programs, the Great Stories CLUB, LIVE! @ your library and more. The website, brings librarians timely and valuable opportunities to support the creation of high-quality outreach programs for their communities. The ALA Center for Civic Life, hosted by by PPO, fosters public deliberation and promotes engagement through libraries. For more information about the ALA Public Programs Office, visit

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a nonprofit organization that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together. Based on 25 years of innovating with communities, The Harwood Institute has developed a proven practice that is used in thousands of communities nationally and worldwide. For additional information see



Mary Davis Fournier

Deputy Director

Public Programs Office