Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries


Specially designed for the needs of small and rural libraries, Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries, a new learning series from the American Library Association (ALA), helps library workers develop skills to engage with their communities.

Special Grant Opportunity for Small and Rural Libraries

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. ALA will accept applications for grants to be distributed over the next three years ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. To be alerted about the second round opening date, sign up to receive ALA's Programming Librarian e-newsletter.

Free Resources to Help You Lead Conversations

These materials are designed to help you, as a library worker in a small or rural community, gain the skills you need to not only prepare for and lead discussions, but also to overcome common challenges that arise when people gather to speak in groups.

Topics include the roles and responsibilities of a facilitator, how to ask the right questions, tips for keeping a conversation constructive, and best practices for defusing tension.

Get started below!

Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant RE-17-19-0041-19.

Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change. Because our divided nation needs conversation more than ever.

Learning Sessions

Webinar 1: "Introduction to Dialogue & Deliberation for Rural, Small or Mid-Sized Public Libraries" (recorded Feb. 28, 2018)

Webinar 2: "Libraries Transforming Communities: Future Search" (recorded April 25, 2018)

Webinar 3: "Libraries Transforming Communities: Conversation Cafe" (recorded May 23, 2018)

IN-PERSON WORKSHOP: June 22, 2018, during the 2018 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans.

Previously Recorded

Webinar 1: "Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change Overview" (recorded Feb. 9, 2017)

Featured Methods

Conversation CafeConversation Cafés are open, hosted conversations in cafés as well as conferences and classrooms — anywhere people gather to make sense of our world. At a Conversation Café there is nothing to join, no homework, no agenda, just a simple process that helps to shift us from small talk to BIG talk, conversations that matter. It is a 90-minute hosted conversation, held in a public setting like a café, where anyone is welcome to join. A simple format helps people feel at ease and gives everyone who wants it a chance to speak — it’s also fine for people to simply listen.

Use Conversation Café when: You want participants to learn more about themselves, their community or an issue, and/or discover innovative solutions to problems.

Topics suited for this model: Nearly anything! It is particularly suited for exploring topics (e.g. community, love, death), or for processing events or issues, like instances of violence or other crises in a community.

Why we chose this model: This is an open-source, simple method, which allows for it to be adapted to whichever issue or topic is timely or desired. With training, libraries can run this kind of dialogue using minimal resources — which makes it particularly ideal for the smaller and rural libraries.

Explore our free Conversation Café learning sessions and resources

Future SearchUsed by communities and organizations, Future Search is a unique planning method that enables large, diverse groups to validate a common mission, take responsibility for action, and develop commitment to implementation. The meeting is task-focused. It brings together people from all walks of life into the same conversation — those with resources, expertise, formal authority and need. People tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue they discover their common ground, and then they make concrete action plans.

The meeting design comes from theories and principles tested in many cultures for the past 50 years. It relies on mutual learning among stakeholders as a catalyst for voluntary action and follow-up. People devise new forms of cooperation that continue for months or years.

Use Future Search when: The method is especially useful in uncertain, fast-changing situations when it is important that everyone have the same large picture in order to act responsibly.

Topics suited for this model: Housing, employment, transportation, education, and more!

Why we chose this model: This is a method for strategic planning, which helps communities develop cooperative plans. Particularly for a smaller-sized community, libraries could serve as a facilitative leader for conversations in the community where plans need to be developed, as they are a key resource and gathering place.

Explore our free Future Search learning sessions and resources

These resources are offered as part of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Models for Change, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) and National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) that seeks to strengthen libraries' roles as core community leaders and agents of change. LTC: Models for Change is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).