The American Library Association (A.L.A.) announced on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, it “is pleased to offer a series of sessions at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference that will help librarians leverage their trusted position in the community to engage people on issues that matter.”
All communities have challenges. Library professionals are uniquely positioned to help conquer them — given the right tools.
The 2014 ALA Annual Conference will take place from Thursday, June 26, 2014 to Tuesday, July 1, 2014 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. The A.L.A. stated, “In four ‘Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community’ sessions, library professionals will gain practical tools to aid in decision-making, planning and group facilitation and will discuss methods to remain engaged and rejuvenated professionally and personally. Each stand-alone session focuses on a single tool; taken together, they become a powerful framework for engaging community and leading change.”
The first session, “Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community: Aspirations,” is from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 2014. It “will help librarians focus on community aspirations, identify next steps for change and create an aspirations-based story for their community as a starting point for library action.”
The second session, “Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community: Turn Quiz,” is from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 28, 2014. It “will introduce librarians to the “Turn Quiz” tool, enabling them to assess the focus of their efforts in the community as they shift their orientation from internal to external.”
The third session, “Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community: Intentionality,” is from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 29, 2014. It “will enable participants to test the external orientation and mindfulness of their community engagement choices and decisions.”
The fourth session, “Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community: Sustaining Yourself,” is from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 29, 2014. It “will help librarians personally map the components that feed their motivation and commitment for community work.”
All four gatherings will take place in Las Vegas Convention Center room S223. Similar sessions were previously offered at the Public Library Association (P.L.A.) 2014 Conference in March, where they drew a large number of attendees.”
“I think this (approach) can help libraries engage more communities and move libraries toward a brighter future,” wrote one P.L.A. attendee of the “Turning Outward” sessions.
The sessions are offered as part of Libraries Transforming Communities (L.T.C.), an A.L.A. “initiative that seeks to strengthen librarians’ roles as core community leaders and change agents. LTC addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways. The initiative is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”
“ALA started the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative because we believe that librarians’ roles as core community leaders is vital to the success of libraries and the communities that support them,” stated A.L.A. President Barbara Stripling. “When we examine library-led community engagement and innovation, we see a domino effect of positive results, from stronger relationships with local civic agencies to an increased investment in collaboration, education, health and well-being.”
The community engagement techniques shared through LTC are based on the Harwood Institute’s ‘turning outward’ practice, which emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.
In April, the A.L.A. announced ten American public libraries — representing the range of American communities in terms of size, location, ethnic and racial diversity and socioeconomic status — that will take part in the LTC Public Innovators Cohort, an eighteen-month-long, intensive training program in which library professionals will put the turning outward method to work on challenges in their communities.
The ten public libraries in question are the Red Hook Public Library in Red Hook, New York (population: 1,900); the Columbus Public Library in Columbus, Wisconsin (population: 5,000); the Knox County Public Library headquartered in Vincennes, Indiana (Knox County having a population of 33,900); the Suffolk Public Library in Suffolk, Virginia (population: 85,000); the Hartford Public Library in Hartford, Connecticut (population: 125,000); the Springfield City Library in Springfield, Massachusetts (population: 153,000); the Tuscaloosa Public Library in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (population: 195,000); the Spokane County Library District in Washington (the city of Spokane having a population of 255,000 and Spokane County having a population of 479,398); the San Jose Public Library in San Jose, California (population: 980,000); and the Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles, California (population: 3,800,000).