Turning Outward Resources for Libraries

The tools below are designed to help libraries strengthen their role as community leaders and bring about positive change in their communities. [NOTE: Download all the tools below in "A Step-By-Step Guide to 'Turning Outward' to Your Community."]

"Turning outward" is a step-by-step process developed by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. It entails taking steps to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make conversations more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

Taken together, these resources provide a  90-day plan to help your library "turn outward." 

We hope you find these materials useful, and we welcome your feedback. For more information about how libraries nationwide are using the tools, visit our LTC blog. For complete "turning outward" training materials—including all the tools belowdownload the Public Innovators Lab Workbook.

Want to hear how libraries are using these tools? Visit the LTC blog and the "Libraries Transforming Communities: 'Turning Outward' Tools in Practice" YouTube videos.


First 30 Days: Getting StartedFirst 30 Days:
Getting Started

Begin to talk to your library team about their hopes and goals

Put in place the thought processes that will lead to long-term change

Turn Outward A short quiz to help you and your team understand what it means to “turn outward” toward the community
  • Illustrates what the concept of “turning outward” means in practice and lays the groundwork for future action
  • Use individually or with a group, such as in a staff meeting or board retreat
Turn Outward
Aspirations A 60- to 90-minute conversation with an existing or newly formed group (i.e., staff task force, board committee, new community group) designed to help the group decide what they want to work on together
  • Starts the conversation with aspirations, as opposed to problems—keeping the focus grounded in reality with a sense of possibility
  • Composed of three questions that culminate in a brief story summarizing your community’s aspirations and challenges

Aspirations Facilitators Guide

Intentionality Tests A series of self-assessment questions to help you learn to make turned-outward decisions grounded in aspirations and the 3A’s of Public Life: Authority, Authenticity and Accountability
  • Tests offer touchstones for decision-making you can use in your daily work

Engagement Paths

3As of Public Life

Sustaining Yourself

30 - 60 Days: Going into the Community
30-60 Days: Going into the Community

Begin facilitating conversations with your community

Ask Exercise Four simple questions you can ask people one-on-one—patrons, even folks on the street—to begin learning what kind of community people want
  • A starting point for learning about your community’s aspirations
  • Gain confidence in engaging people—even those you don’t know—in conversation
  • Takes just 5 to 10 minutes
  • Can be completed with minimal planning
Ask Exercise
Community Conversations A series of 90- to 120-minute conversations with community members about what they want their community to be; what challenges they face in realizing these aspirations; and what changes are needed to overcome them
  • Help you engage others, find partners and develop strategies that strengthen the library’s relevance and significance in the community
  • Templates in Community Conversation Workbook make it easy to invite, facilitate and follow up
Community Conversation Workbook

Webinar: “Hosting and Leading Community Conversations”

Theming and Using Public Knowledge Workbook

Webinar: “Theming and Using Public Knowledge”

Webinar: "Calibrating Community Conditions"

60-90 Days: Sharing What You Learn
60-90 Days: Sharing What You Learn

Share knowledge and evaluate team progress

Innovation Space Regularly scheduled meetings (once every four weeks) to bring members of your team together to focus on what you’re learning and identify implications for your work going forward
  • Time set aside for asking “what are we learning?”—not “what are we doing?”
  • Taking time to reflect on what you are learning helps your team maintain a turned-outward mindset

Innovation Spaces

Webinar: “Hosting and Using Innovation Spaces”

Innovation Spaces: Behaviors to Watch For

Webinar: “Partner Selection and Managing Relationships”

Sweet Spot

90 Days and Beyond: Taking Action
90 Days and Beyond:
Taking Action
Community Conditions /
Sweet Spot
Questions and tools to help you assess your community's "stage"—its readiness for and receptivity to change—and use that knowledge to take action
  • Meeting your community "where it's at" will make your community engagement plan more effective
  • Helps you take what you have learned from community conversations and translate that knowledge into action that will effect lasting and positive change
  • Helps you determine which actions to take alone and which to take with partners

Calibrating Community Conditions / Moving from Aspirations to Action: Step 1

Webinar: "Calibrating Community Conditions"

Community Rhythms

Public Capital Factors

Webinar: "Sweet Spot of Public Life" 

Moving From Aspirations to Action: Steps 1-4

"Sweet Spot of Public Life" Webinar Links

The Space You Occupy: The KNPR Story

  Making It Stick with Staff A conversation guide for your core group of staff/volunteers to assess how you are integrating the turning outward approach into your ongoing work
  • Helps you take the approach to the next level—from an interesting experiment to part of your regular, everyday practice.
Making It Stick with Staff
  Making Meaning of Data A conversation guide to help your team make sense of data in the context of turning outward
  • Invites your team to connect your data collection efforts to your turning outward perspectives.
Making Meaning of Data
  Tracking Your Progress A chart of the turning outward process to help your team visualize where it has been and where it is going next
  • Hanging your chart on a wall helps keep your team moving forward and putting what you have learned to use.
Tracking Your Progress

*NEW (8/17)* Applying Public Knowledge to Library Programs

A guide to working your newfound public knowledge into your library programs

  • Brings your team together to draw connections between what you are learning in your community and what you are doing in your library programming.
Applying Public Knowledge to Library Programs

*NEW (8/17)* Building a Turned Outward Team Organizational Culture

Four steps about how to build an organizational culture that draws on your Harwood work
  • These steps help orient your team and keep them on track to building a Turned Outward approach.
Building a Turned Outward Team Organizational Culture

*NEW (8/17)* Turning Outward and Strategic Planning

A guide to integrating your Turning Outward work into your library's strategic plan
  • Reminds you keep public knowledge, rather than expert knowledge, at the forefront of your strategic planning process, from goal-setting to developing targets and metrics.
Turning Outward and Strategic Planning


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

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."

graphic of a document with a download arrow

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