For immediate release | January 22, 2014

ALA announces Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovator Cohort grant opportunity

Public libraries invited to apply by March 6 to receive $8,000 grant and 18 months of professional development in community engagement

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office is accepting applications for the Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovators Cohort, an 18-month, team-based professional development opportunity for public libraries, developed by ALA and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation.

The Libraries Transforming Communities project, made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addresses a critical need of the field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways; strengthens librarians as community leaders and change agents, and strengthens ALA’s capacity as a lead library support entity.

In April, up to 50 individuals representing teams from 10 public libraries nationally will be selected to participate in the Public Innovators Cohort. Selected libraries will receive:

  • An $8,000 grant to support Cohort expenses.
  • An intensive 18-month Public Innovators Cohort experience that will include training and team coaching to develop and implement a community engagement plan.
  • Cohort training at the intensive three-day Public Innovators Lab, May 20-22, 2014.
  • Virtual and in-person "innovation space" meetings.
  • Access to six in-depth distance learning session.
  • Monthly coaching and peer dialogue calls with a Harwood Institute coach and cohort peers to support implementation work.
  • Access to publicity and marketing resources to support local-level communications.

The Public Innovators Cohort is grounded in the Harwood Institute‘s approach of “turning outward,” which emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external. Participants will develop and implement a plan for community engagement and learn how to:

  • Identify community issues rooted in people's shared aspirations;
  • Strategically share this knowledge with your community to build public will for action;
  • Develop strategies that align with local context;
  • Create community conditions that enable change;
  • Identify the right community partners to work with; and
  • Develop networks for innovation and learning.

Complete guidelines and application instructions can be found at: A conference call for interested applicants will be held at 1 p.m. central time on February 12, 2014.

An update on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative will be given by Maureen Sullivan, ALA immediate past president, and Rich Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, from 8:30 – 10 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 26, at the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in PCC 201C.

Sullivan and Harwood will share the latest examples of the impact from librarians trained during phase one who are successfully applying the Harwood practice in libraries and within the ALA community. They will also provide details and answer questions about exciting new opportunities for librarians to increase the effectiveness of their library-led community engagement and innovation.

Related Links

Libraries Transforming Communities website

Libraries Transforming Communities: An Initiative Update at Midwinter Meeting


Mary Davis Fournier

Deputy Director

ALA Public Programs Office