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Community and Civic Engagement: The Library’s Role as Connector
An Infopeople Online Learning Course
Course Instructor: Jane Salisbury
Are you looking for new ways to connect your library with your community? Do you want to promote community discourse and build capacity for civic engagement? Connecting people to each other and to local government is a traditional role of libraries that is expanding in new ways. Creative programs and partnerships bring people together, both face-to-face and online. Community one-book reading programs, citizenship and civics programs, Facebook and Twitter campaigns, literacy programs and library participation in local community events, among other efforts, establish the library as a vital connector in its community.
This course will inform and support you in your efforts to form community partnerships and to enhance civic life in your community. Together we'll explore:
- Community and civic engagement as concepts: what they are and why they are important to libraries
- How government, non-profits and libraries can build useful and innovative relationships
- Assessing local interests and needs
- Targeting specific groups in your community
- Public forums in libraries: how to handle hot topics and reach consensus
We will look at how your library can participate in local and community events, from the fun (festivals and fairs) to the serious (government boards and agencies). Exemplary programs will be introduced and discussed, and resources shared, with an emphasis on the practical steps that you can take in your own community.
Course Description: During this four-week online course, you will have a chance to learn about many different methods and examples of community and civic engagement in libraries. A variety of assignments will give you opportunities to apply concepts to your own library situation. You will be able to participate in discussion forums, listen to interviews, and benefit from a previously recorded conversation with Vanessa Whang of CalHumanities which focuses on how to create and facilitate civic dialogue and reflection programs. Your instructor will be there to facilitate the sharing of your experiences and knowledge. Resources will be provided for further reading and explorations.
Course Outline: When you log in to the Infopeople online learning site, you will see weekly modules with these topics:
- Week 1: How and Why the Library Is a Connector
- Brief history of community and civic engagement in US public libraries
- Assessing current efforts and initiatives: services, outreach, programming
- Assessing capacity for community and civic engagement: staff, volunteers, funding
- Week 2: Civic Engagement
- Definitions of civic engagement
- Examples of libraries and civic engagement
- Public forums and community discourse programs in libraries
- Facilitation roles and resources
- Difficult issues and the neutral role of the library, taking action without taking sides
- Citizenship education and civic literacy
- Roles the library can play in local government efforts and initiatives
- Pitching the library as a partner for local government efforts and initiatives
- Week 3: Community Engagement
- Examples of libraries connecting with and engaging the community
- Scanning the community for key issues, people, and organizations
- Introducing yourself and the library to new partners and new users
- Kinds of partnerships, and how to build them for community engagement
- Pitfalls, conflicts, and tricky situations when working with community-based organizations
- Partner expectations and getting to YES
- Week 4: Exemplary Projects and Why They Work
- Detailed description of model projects
- Elements of successful programs
- Adapting a program or initiative to your library and community
- Resources such as ALA Center for Civic Life, Urban Libraries Council, ProgrammingLibrarian.org, CalHumanities, Center for Civic Reflection, and ALA Public and Cultural Programs Committee
Time Required: To complete this course, you can expect to spend 2½ hours per week, for a total of ten course hours. Each week's module contains readings and various options for assignments, discussions, or online meetings. You can choose the options most relevant to your work and interests. Although you can work on each module at your own pace, at any hour of the day or night, it is recommended that you complete each week's work within that week to stay in sync with other learners.
Who Should Take This Course: Library directors, managers, and staff who want to partner with local government and community groups to promote engagement, community discourse, and civic literacy and participation. This course will also be beneficial to library trustees and Friends.
Online Learning Details and System Requirements may be found at: infopeople.org/training/online_learning_details.
After the official end date for the course, the instructor will be available for limited consultation and support for two more weeks, and the course material will stay up for an additional two weeks after that. These extra weeks give those who have fallen behind time to work independently to complete the course.
Keywords: Adult services, Civic Engagement, Community building, Outreach, Partnerships