Community engagement — the process of working collaboratively with community members — provides a roadmap to creating sustainable, resilient organizations and communities. Small, rural libraries are nimble, responsive organizations that can work with their communities to create powerful community-led change. By working collaboratively with community members, libraries can create a roadmap to creating sustainable, resilient organizations.
But library workers serving small and rural communities often face unique barriers — like small staffs and limited budgets — that limit their ability to pursue professional development opportunities to develop their community engagement skills.
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), will help library workers develop facilitation skills to engage with their communities.
“Whether hosting a storytime or leading a town hall meeting, library workers today need communication skills to fulfill their broad mission as community educators and leaders,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “Since launching ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative in 2014, library employees from small and rural communities have been asking ALA for facilitation training to help them become better conveners, and we’re proud to deliver with this special project.”
Through Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries, ALA and its project partners will release a suite of facilitation resources in 2020, including:
- A five-part asynchronous online course, open to all library workers, free of charge. Sign up to be notified when each course module is available.
- In-person training at the 2020 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago with follow-up coaching support; space is limited. Registration and travel stipends will be granted through a competitive, peer-reviewed application process. Apply now.
- A step-by-step facilitation guide.
The online course, in-person workshop and coaching support are open to library employees who work in small/rural communities — i.e., communities outside of U.S. Census-defined urban areas that have a legal service area population of 25,000 or less, in accordance with the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) definitions.
All library types (e.g., public, college/academic, K-12) are welcome, and no facilitation or community engagement experience is required.
Advisors for Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries include:
- Judy Bergeron, Smithville Public Library director, Smithville, Texas
- Martín Carcasson, professor in the Communication Studies department of Colorado State University (CSU), and founder and director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation
- Phillip Carter, director, Lamar County Library System, Purvis, Mississippi
- Suzette Chang, executive director, Guthrie Public Library, Guthrie, Oklahoma, and founder and CEO of Thick Descriptions
- Erica Freudenberger, outreach and engagement consultant, Southern Adirondack Library System, Saratoga Springs, New York
- Betty Knighton, senior associate, Kettering Foundation, and vice president, National Issues Forums Institute
- Brittany Overton, director, Minot-Sleeper Library, Bristol, New Hampshire
- Robin Westphal, state librarian for Missouri and COSLA representative
Libraries Transforming Communities: Facilitation Skills for Small and Rural Libraries is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant number RE-17-19-0041-19.
The initiative is offered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in collaboration with the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA).
About Libraries Transforming Communities
Since 2014, ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative has reimagined the role libraries play in supporting communities. Libraries of all types, from across the country, have utilized the free dialogue and deliberation training and resources to lead community and campus forums; take part in anti-violence activities; provide a safe space for residents to come together to discuss challenging topics; and have productive conversations with civic leaders, library trustees and staff. Learn more at ala.org/LTC.
About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit ala.org.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. We advance, support and empower America’s museums, libraries and related organizations through grantmaking, research and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.