For immediate release | July 22, 2014

ALA, Harwood Institute announce ‘Public Innovators Lab for Libraries’ community engagement training opportunity

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) and The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation have announced an intensive three-day training opportunity to help libraries strengthen their role as agents of positive change in their communities.

The Public Innovators Lab for Libraries will be held Oct. 8 to 10 at the Loudermilk Convention Center in Atlanta. Librarians, community partners and stakeholders in libraries of all types — public, academic, school and special libraries — are encouraged to register.

Through discussions, hands-on activities and collaborations with like-minded library professionals, participants will learn to:

  • tap libraries' natural values to contribute to the greater good and bring their communities together;
  • uncover people’s shared aspirations for their communities and help bring them to life;
  • convene and lead productive, insightful community conversations; and
  • become stewards of public knowledge.

Participants must register online by Sept. 30. The cost is $1,495 for the first person from an organization and $995 for each additional person. Team participation is encouraged.

The ALA-Harwood Institute partnership is based on the idea that libraries, by virtue of their trusted position in their communities, are uniquely suited to help solve challenges of all types, from literacy to drug epidemics to distrust in government.

The Public Innovators Lab for Libraries will be based on Harwood’s “turning outward” approach, which emphasizes making the community the reference point for getting things done. This shift in orientation is achieved through practical steps: taking measures to better understand communities; being proactive about community issues; and putting community ambitions first.

“Libraries are undergoing a transformational shift,” said ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels. “They are no longer passive providers of services; they are consensus-builders and a driving force in community change. The ‘turning outward’ approach equips library professionals with the skills they need not only to adapt, but lead.”

“We’ve already seen so many libraries use our tools to find new and better ways to bring their communities together to address their challenges. We’re excited that libraries continue to show interest in being change-leaders in their communities,” said Rich Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute,

Libraries around the country are already putting the “turning outward” approach to work. Fifty people participated in an earlier ALA-Harwood lab in October 2013.

“The big difference with Harwood’s method is that you start with aspirations — asking ‘what do you want for your community?’” said 2013 lab participant Alice Knapp, acting president at Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn. “When you start there, you figure out right away where you want to go; after that, you just have to move the stumbling blocks out of the way.”

The Public Innovators Lab for Libraries is offered as part of the ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative. The initiative addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways.

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About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About The Harwood Institute

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Md., that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together. The institute is guided by Richard C. Harwood, whose transformational work during the past 25 years has spread to thousands of communities nationally and worldwide, from small towns to large cities.


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office (PPO)