“Ask, Listen, Empower” Virtual Book Club

The “Ask, Listen, Empower” Virtual Book Club is a series of three 90-minute virtual, interactive conversations about community engagement. Sessions will be held once per month in January, February, and March of 2022.

Applications are now closed.Cover of "Ask, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement"

Community engagement isn’t simply an important component of a successful library—it’s the foundation upon which every service, offering, and initiative rests. "Ask, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement," edited by Mary Davis Fournier and Sarah Ostman (ALA Editions, 2020), offers practical ideas of how libraries can collaborate with others to address issues for the betterment of the community.

In January, February, and March 2022, the American Library Association (ALA) will invite 100 public library workers to participate in a series of three 90-minute virtual book clubs. Each session will feature one chapter from "Ask, Listen, Empower," and will offer a live conversation with the chapter's author, small-group breakout discussion, and Q&A time with the author.

Participation in this series is free, and participants will receive a free print copy of "Ask, Listen, Empower."

NOTE: If you are selected to participate in the virtual book club, you will be expected to attend each of the following live sessions and to arrive having read the relevant chapter. Sessions will NOT be recorded. Participants will be asked to read the chapter ahead of time and will be invited to submit questions. Note that some sessions may have light advance work (e.g., brainstorming for a community mapping project).

Webinar 1: "Partnering for Greater Impact"

When: Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 1 - 2:30 pm CT


Being an engaged information professional means that you collect community relationships in the same way your organization collects materials and information. Partnering makes for a more efficient, exponentially more creative, better connected, more bang-for-your buck library and a more vibrant community. Importantly, partnering also allows for shared risk.

Learning objectives

Participants in this session will:

  • Re-envision the library role in the community.
  • Map their communities to find new partners or strengthen existing partnerships.
  • Walk away with a plan for a community field trip.


921e45ff6e054efd419e22f6b7b6796e_400x400Helping organizations see the big picture as they strive for equity and social justice is Cindy Fesemyer's passion. She is the Adult and Community Services Consultant for the state Library Team at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Previously she served seven years as Director of the Columbus Public Library (WI), named a finalist for Library Journal's 2017 Best Small Library in America. She sits on the board of the Public Library Association and is a Trustee for the Madison Public Library. Librarianship is Cindy's second career. After 14 years managing non-profits, she earned her MLIS from UW-Madison in 2012.

Flo%20Trujillo_0Flo (Florencia) Trujillo (moderator) is a retired Youth Services Coordinator of the Farmington Public Library in New Mexico. She also serves as president of REFORMA de Nuevo Mexico and twice was named an Afterschool Ambassador by the Afterschool Alliance. She was named a Día Dynamo for El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children's Day/Book Day.

Webinar 2: "Ethical and Inclusive Community Engagement"

When: Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, 1 - 2:30 pm CT


Ethics and inclusion should be at the center of all community engagement programs. Unfortunately, good intentions - even the best intentions - do not automatically lead to fair and equitable outcomes. The authors pull from personal experiences and work with libraries to discuss power and privilege, point out some ways that library workers can be intentional in their practice and talk about the importance of relationship building in the community.

Learning objectives

Participants in this session will:

  • Identify partnership opportunities that reflect ethical and inclusive practices, in order to produce authentic community engagement.
  • Understand the cycle of community engagement: Listen, partner, execute, evaluate, iterate.
  • Develop a plan to start or deepen current community engagement practices.


batts.8Quanetta "Q" Batts is the Director for Outreach & Engagement at Ohio State University Libraries. She provides leadership and cultivates relationships with campus and community partners. Q also manages the Mary P. Key Diversity Residency, Expanding Visions Foundation internship and Project Mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is an exceptional project manager who leads conference planning and strategic projects. Q is also an experienced workshop presenter covering topics such as negotiation strategies and event management. In April 2019, Q was recognized with the university’s Distinguished Staff Award. She has a MBA and BS from Ohio Dominican University.

ellenEllen M. Knutson is a Portland, Oregon-based research associate at the Charles F. Kettering Foundation where she is a key member of the team learning from US and Russian librarians who are creating community-focused libraries. She is an adjunct assistant professor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois. Knutson also serves on the advisory committee for the American Library Association’s Center for Civic Life. She received her MS and PhD in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BA in Political Science from Reed College.

Headshot of Miguel Ruiz

Miguel Ruiz (moderator) is an information professional with knowledge in diverse environments including public, academic, and special libraries. Currently he serves as the Librarian Supervisor at Arlington Public Library in Virginia, where he oversees the Shirlington Branch with a focus on public services, programming, collection management, community engagement, and equity.

Webinar 3: “Community-Centered Programming: Tools and Techniques”

When: Wednesday, March 16, 2022, 1 - 2:30 pm CT


How do you plan programs and services by and with, rather than for or at, your community? Learn new tools and techniques, such as racial equity assessment, to put your community at the center of your work.

Learning objectives

Participants in this session will:

  • Be able to apply community-led practices to small and large libraries.
  • Be aware of how to apply racial equity assessment.
  • Be able to share power with participants from multiple cultural backgrounds.


1718131Audrey Barbakoff is the Community Engagement and Economic Development Manager at King County Library System in Washington state. She is the author of Adults Just Wanna Have Fun: Programs for Emerging Adults (ALA Editions, 2016). She writes, speaks, and teaches nationally on innovative adult programs, services, and community engagement. Audrey is a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a Kitsap Business Journal 40 Under 40. She holds an MLIS from the University of Washington and is pursuing her Ed.D. from the University of Southern California, where she is researching capacity building for community-led planning in libraries. Find her at www.the-bookaneer.com.

Headshot of Veronica Casanova

Veronica Casanova (moderator) works for the Tulare County Library System’s Exeter Branch Library, her childhood library. Veronica’s passion for outreach to the Spanish-speaking community drove her to apply and obtain the California Humanities Library Innovation Lab (LIL) Grant. With the LIL grant funds, she designed and implemented programming to engage this population. Through the California State Library’s Developing MakerSpaces in Libraries Throughout California Grant, she created MakerSpace programming for her community to create, play and learn. Thanks to the California State Library, the small rural community of Exeter, California is able to experiment with robotics, 3D printing and other STEAM programming. Veronica is an active member of REFORMA de Valle Central, where she supports literacy and community efforts to improve the well-being of the Latinx community. In her free time, she likes to jog, do yoga, binge shows on Netflix, read (of course!) and spend time with family.

The "Ask, Listen, Empower" Virtual Book Club is made possible through The STAR Net STEAM Equity Project. The project is offered by the Space Science Institute's National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL/SSI), the American Library Association (ALA), Twin Cities PBS (TPT), Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) and Education Development Center (EDC). It is generously funded through the National Science Foundation. This project builds on the STAR Library Network, or STAR Net (where “STAR” stands for Science-Technology Activities and Resources).

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers DRL-1906172 and DRL-1906084. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.