Communities have challenges. Libraries can help.
Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) — an initiative of the American Library Association — seeks to strengthen libraries’ role as core community leaders and change-agents. 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.
LTC helps libraries become more reflective of and connected to their communities and achieve a domino effect of positive results, including stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations, and greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health and well-being. ALA also hopes to shift public discourse away from past themes about libraries in crisis and toward talk of libraries as agents of positive community change.
Phase 1: Libraries Transforming Communities (2014-15)
In 2014, ALA partnered with the the nonprofit Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to explore how their Turning Outward approach could be used in libraries. The initiative was made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Turning Outward emphasizes a shift in orientation from internal (library-focused) to external (community-focused). This change is achieved through practical steps: taking measures to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make libraries' work more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.
LTC consisted of three areas of concentration:
- LTC Public Innovators Cohort: ALA selected 10 public libraries across the country to participate in an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program in the Harwood Institute's Turning Outward approach. The libraries trained with community-engagement experts and apply the training to challenges in their communities. Read case studies about the LTC Public Innovators Cohort.
- Knowledge-sharing: ALA committed to sharing LTC knowledge and resources with library professionals through conference sessions and free digital materials, including webinars, worksheets and conversation guides.
- ALA staff training: ALA worked internally to integrate community-focused thinking and processes into our own organization.
Phase 2: Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change (2016-18)
In December 2016, ALA announced a second phase of the initiative, Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Models for Change. The initiative was made possible through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.
Offered in collaboration with the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), LTC: Models for Change invited library professionals to attend free online and in-person courses to explore various dialogue facilitation approaches and position themselves to foster conversation and lead change in their communities.
The series was offered in three parts, covering a variety established dialogue and deliberation models:
- Series 1: For public libraries serving large or urban communities
- Series 2: For academic libraries
- Series 3: For public libraries serving small, mid-sized or rural communities
The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation recognize the following distinguished library professionals for their invaluable advise and guidance on the Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change initiative:
Cassandra Barnett, program advisor for school libraries at the Arkansas Department of Education; Andrea Blackman, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer for the City of Nashville; Judy Calhoun, regional director, Southeast Arkansas Public Library system; Cindy Fesemyer, principal, Fesemyer Consulting; Susan Hildreth, professor of practice, Information School at the University of Washington, Nancy Kranich, past president of ALA (2000-01), professor, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information; Valeriano Ramos Jr., director of strategic alliances and racial equity officer, Everyday Democracy.
The American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation recognize the following distinguished library professionals for their invaluable advise and guidance on the Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries initiative.
Judith Bergeron, library director, Smithville (Texas) Public Library; Martín Carcasson, professor, Communication Studies department, Colorado State University; Phillip Carter, library director, Starkville-Oktibbeha (Miss.) County Public Library System, Suzette V. Chang, executive director, Guthrie (Okla.) Public Library; Erica Freudenberger, outreach & engagement consultant, Southern Adirondack (N.Y.) Library System; Becky Heil, district consultant, State Library of Iowa; Betty Knighton, senior associate, Kettering Foundation; Brittany Overton, director, Minot-Sleeper Library (N.H.); Flo (Florencia) Trujillo, president, REFORMA de Nuevo Mexico; Robin Westphal, Missouri state librarian.
In 2020, ALA announced Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries. The initiative awarded $2 million to small and rural libraries in 2020 and 2021 to help them address issues of concern in their communities.
A total of 567 libraries in 48 states received funding throughout three rounds of grants. Along with the $3,000 grant, selected libraries received community engagement resources and opportunities specific to the needs of library workers serving small and rural communities.
The goals of LTC: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries:
- Teach library workers facilitation skills, through the LTC: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries asynchronous six-part e-course and facilitation guide, that will empower them to lead a community conversation
- Provide flexible funding to support libraries’ community engagement efforts
Libraries Transforming Communities: Accessible Small and Rural Communities will offer more than $7 million in grants to small and rural libraries to increase the accessibility of facilities, services, and programs to better serve people with disabilities.
Beginning in late 2022, ALA will accept applications for grants to be distributed over the next three years ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. Participating libraries will first conduct community input-gathering sessions to assure that their work aligns with local needs. Libraries will be required to identify the primary audience they are hoping to reach (e.g., homebound seniors, children with autism, Deaf community members) and facilitate a community conversation with the impacted populations in order to guide improvement of the library’s services. Grantees would then use the funds to create services or improve their facilities based on the needs identified by their audience.
We welcome your feedback! Please send your comments, questions and suggestions to ALA's Public Programs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.