Free webinar series teaches libraries to 'turn outward' and lead positive community change

For Immediate Release
Tue, 10/21/2014


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office


CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) invites library professionals to view a free webinar series designed to help libraries strengthen their role as core community leaders and work with residents to bring positive change to their communities.

Led by educators from The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, the webinars explain, step by step, how libraries can use the “turning outward” approach to better engage their communities. The approach emphasizes taking steps to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make conversations more community-focused; becoming more proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

The first four webinars are available now at They range from 60 to 90 minutes in length.

  • “Hosting and Leading Community Conversations” describes the process of planning and facilitating community conversations. These gatherings provide an opportunity for residents to talk about what they want their community to be; what challenges they face in realizing these aspirations; and what changes are needed to overcome them. Webinar topics include “ground rules” for the conversation, how to be an effective facilitator, note-taking and follow-up.
  • “Theming and Using Public Knowledge” explains how to organize, understand and share insights collected during community conversations. Topics include organizing notes, identifying prevalent themes, creating effective partnerships and moving toward action.
  •  “Hosting and Using Innovation Spaces” describes a process for sharing knowledge and insights within your organization as you enact the “turning outward” approach. These regularly scheduled meetings bring members of your team together to focus on what you are learning and to identify implications for work going forward.

Two remaining webinars will be released in the coming months:

  • “Calibrating Community Conditions,” coming Nov. 19, 2014
  • “Sweet Spot of Community Change,” coming Feb. 19, 2015

The webinars — offered as part of ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative — are originally being broadcast for the LTC Public Innovators Cohort, a group of 10 public libraries chosen to undergo an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program. Through webinars and in-person training, the libraries are putting the “turning outward” approach to work in their communities.

All training materials developed as part of LTC — including worksheets, facilitator’s guides and sample materials — are available to all libraries, free of charge. For a full list of resources, as well as a 90-day guide for getting started with the “turning outward” approach, visit

About Libraries Transforming Communities

Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) is an ALA initiative that seeks to strengthen libraries’ roles as core community leaders and change-agents. LTC addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for libraries to engage with their communities in new ways. As a result, ALA believes libraries will become more reflective of and connected to their communities and build stronger partnerships with local civic agencies, nonprofits, funders and corporations. The initiative is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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.