Case Studies

In 2014 and 2015, 10 public libraries from across the country took part in an extensive, 18-month training to learn the Harwood Institute's Turning Outward approach and put it to use in their communities.

Known as the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) Public Innovators Cohort, these libraries spent countless hours talking to community members, learning about their aspirations and concerns, and developing action plans to help their communities reach their full potential.

While the LTC initiative ended in December 2015, the libraries' work continues.

Read more about some of their stories in the following case studies. Download the complete set of LTC case studies [PDF].

Artists sitting on a bench they created in Columbus, Wis.


Columbus (Wis.) Public Library: Innovative Solutions to Bridging Community Divisions [PDF]

For much of its history, Columbus was a rural community, but today it is quickly becoming a commuter town. Feeling the effects of this rapid change, the Columbus Public Library joined the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative to learn how to add more value in the community beyond being a lender of books. Not only has Columbus Public Library built a stronger reputation as an institution that can help solve community challenges, but its director—a newcomer to the community—has become a stronger, more credible community leader in the process. Read more...




A community conversation led by Hartford Public Library


Hartford (Conn.) Public Library: Building on a Foundation of Success ... and Going Deep to Go Broad [PDF]

Hartford Public Library has a long history of community engagement. Through the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative, the library has deepened that work. Using new training they received from The Harwood Institute through LTC, library staff members reached out to people in an underserved part of town where many people were disengaged. Based on what they learned from residents, library staff have undertaken efforts to improve relationships between residents and important institutions in the neighborhood. As a result, Hartford Public Library is playing an even stronger role as a critical asset to the community and trusted convener. Read more...



The Los Angeles Public Library LTC team


Los Angeles (Calif.) Public Library: Two Paths, One Destination: Culture Change in a Major Library System [PDF]

The Los Angeles Public Library, a massive library system with a service area of 3 9 million people, joined Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) to generate new ways to deepen their connection to community and help people in communities address issues that mattered to them. The local LTC team started by focusing their work at the Van Nuys Branch, the idea being that if they could demonstrate the power and effectiveness of implementing their training through LTC, it would create a model that could be replicated in other areas of the system. The team saw initial success, but staff changes required them to reevaluate their plans. The team has been working on an alternative strategy that is built on training personnel at all levels across the system to plant the seeds of change and shift the institutional culture. Read more...



Children at a summer camp co-facilitated by the Red Hook Public Library


Red Hook (N.Y.) Public Library: One Small Win Creates Huge Ripples of Change [PDF]

The Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) team from Red Hook Public Library used their training to engage residents in their small town. They learned people were frustrated that problems in their community—even obvious ones—often went unaddressed. The only stoplight in town, which didn’t work properly, was emblematic of their concerns and came up in many discussions with residents. The LTC team took action and brought officials together to figure out how to fix the problem. This seemingly small act sent a signal to the community that it was possible to make things happen, which has led to people stepping forward to work together on other issues that are keeping Red Hook from being more livable and connected. The library is playing a central role in convening these groups and has become a model for how other organizations want to work in the community. Read more...


A Spokane County Library District employee helping a patron with a tablet computer


Spokane County (Wash.) Library District: Building an Organizational Culture that Puts Community First [PDF]

Spokane County Library District joined the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) initiative in part to deepen the transformative work they had begun with a strategic planning process. Staff at the library used their training through LTC to focus not only on how they could build stronger relationships with the community and add more value as a library, but also how they could embed in the library a culture that put the community at the center of decision-making. During the two years of LTC, library staff members have become involved in a variety of initiatives to improve the community based on what they have learned from engaging residents. Additionally, library leaders have taken important steps to embed this new way of working into their talent management efforts. Read more...

graphic of a person speaking on a computer screen

Get started with the free e-course, "Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries."

LTC: Accessible Small and Rural Communities will offer more than $7 million in grants to better serve people with disabilities.

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Learn basic facilitation skills with ALA's free guide, "Leading Conversations in Small and Rural Libraries."