For immediate release | October 9, 2012

ALA receives IMLS grant to advance library-led community engagement

The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities

partners ala with The Harwood Institute for phase one planning

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) announced today that it received a 2012 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant of $250,837 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). ALA will partner with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation on the first phase of a multi-phase initiative, The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities, which will develop a sustainable national plan to transform the role of libraries in their communities by advancing community engagement and innovation.

“The ideas at the heart of this project are particularly timely for the challenges facing public libraries as they rethink their role in their changing communities," said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. “We are pleased to offer IMLS support of an initiative that leverages the expertise of two partners for a program that is scalable and can ultimately reach many librarians in many communities.”

Speaking to the significance of the new initiative, Maureen Sullivan, ALA president, said “The role and contribution of libraries in ensuring informed and engaged communities is critical to our society and the future of our democracy. This grant will provide librarians with the tools and training they need to lead their communities in finding innovative solutions to the challenges they face. Now is the time for librarians to assume this important leadership role. ALA very much appreciates this support from IMLS.”

During the grant period, ALA and the Harwood Institute will develop librarians as conveners and facilitators for their communities and create a pilot set of resource components designed to build the practice of community engagement in library service throughout the field. The goal of this first project phase is to create core communication materials for dissemination to the field, collaboratively create innovative strategies for community engagement, improve participating ALA leader and member access to strategies and resources for community engagement and help participants feel better prepared to take on the role of community facilitator. More than 350 librarians will take part in a range of professional development activities planned during the grant period. The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities is one of ALA President Maureen Sullivan's key initiatives.

The ALA Public Programs Office (PPO) will manage the project. PPO supports cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service in all types and sizes of libraries. Successful civic engagement library programming initiatives have included Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion andEngage! 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. For more information about the ALA Public Programs Office, visit

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to spark fundamental change and authentic hope in American public life. Founded over 20 years ago by nationally renowned speaker and innovator Richard C. Harwood, the institute works with individuals, organizations and communities to turn outward and develop their ability to make more intentional choices and judgments that lead to impact in their communities. For additional information see


Amanda Rychener

Program Coordinator

Public Programs Office (PPO)

800-545-2433 ext. 5287