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Community Engagement

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The community is strengthened through the active facilitation and/or participation by the library in efforts to gather input, engage in meaningful discussions, and act in partnership to support community-wide growth and transformation. Library affiliates (friends and/or foundation organizations) are aligned to strengthen the connections between the library and the community.


The community is integral to any decision made concerning library operations. Libraries and communities have an interdependent relationship. Communities provide funding, opportunities to collaborate and advocate for the library’s work and role in meeting community needs. Libraries contribute to the economic health of the community, collect the memories of the community, and provide a place where people can explore, learn, access resources, share ideas, and be transformed. The library is also an asset that can be of great value when addressing community-wide issues and opportunities.

The Library Governing Authority and staff search for opportunities to cooperate with other community organizations, including other libraries, governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector in order to embed librarians and library services in the community and ensure healthy communities that understand the value of libraries.

Library staff uses many means to reach out and partner with the community in order to stay knowledgeable and engaged. In addition, opportunities for community involvement within the library are available to volunteers. Cooperation may include sharing of resources, staff expertise, training opportunities, or other joint activities. Staff representation in other community organizations is essential in complying with this standard.

The library has a friends group and/or a foundation that assists the library with fundraising, advocacy, and outreach in the community. Resources from these organizations supplement rather than replace the library’s operating budget.

Checklist: Basic

  1. Embrace the importance of community-wide connections by meeting with and supporting local groups.
  2. Establish cooperative agreements between the library and other agencies for shared programs and services.
  3. Participate as an active member and leader (and host) of community groups.
  4. Recruit community volunteers for support as defined in the library’s written volunteer policy.
  5. Ensure that a staff person is responsible for volunteer coordination and training.
  6. Maintain a formal friends or foundation that meets on a regular basis with a library staff liaison present, and follow the national guidelines for the role of each.
  7. Involve library staff, friends and the community in long range plans and fundraising activities.
  8. Make clear distinctions about the responsibilities of the friends group or foundation, and keep funds raised by these groups separate; do not mix with normal operating expenses.
  9. Collect statistics and conduct research such as, customer surveys, community studies, citizen surveys, and other means appropriate to evaluate library services and resources.
  10. Use statistics and other data collection to communicate impact and relevance of library services to the community.
  11. Build “social capital” through civic engagement. Social capital refers to the value of social relations and the role of cooperation to achieve collective or economic results (NC Public Library Standards, 2012).

Checklist: Future-Focused

  1. Convene community meetings involving multiple stakeholders to address community issues.
  2. Encourage community members to participate in conversations about issues that are important to them – beyond library services. Invite partners to work together on plans that address community needs from multiple perspectives.
  3. Collect, organize, and provide information about community groups and issues.
  4. Participate in (or convene) cooperative planning and programming with community groups. Share associated costs when feasible.
  5. Embed library staff in community commissions, boards, neighborhood groups, organizations, and chambers.
  6. Invite community groups and/or businesses to participate in volunteer activities.
  7. Recruit mentors to assist in programs, labs, STEAM/STEM, art and other community-focused activities.