Community-Led Public Libraries

Jennifer Peterson /

I thought anniversary week would be a great time to showcase some of the ongoing work of those who have helped build WebJunction these past 10 years, because, as you know, YOU are WebJunction.

In 2011, WebJunction hosted the webinar, Putting the Public Back in Public Libraries, with members of the Canadian team who created the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit, as part of the Working Together Project.

The webinar was very well received, with over 200 attendees. The presenters detailed the work of the project, the theory of community-led librarianship, current practices, and ways to build organizational support. I find it interesting to see the similarities between this work addressing 'social exclusion' and those used in addressing 'digital inclusion' in our communities. A community-led library, 1) listens to the community talk about their needs 2) collaboratively develops, with the community, the services and programs to meet those needs, and 3) gathers community input on the collaborative activity, then modifies as needed. The webinar includes a discussion about a 'public involvement continuum' and compares traditional library service planning to community-led.

Ken Williment was a presenter for that webinar, and I've had the great pleasure of staying in touch with him as he's further developed his work in the area of community-led libraries. I'd like to extend special congratulations to Ken, and co-author John Pateman, upon publication of their book, Developing Community-Led Public Libraries: Evidence from the UK and Canada.

Published by Ashgate in February 2013:

"This important book examines the potential for a new community led service model in public libraries. Using theoretical approaches to working with socially excluded community members, with a direct application of those approaches in Canadian public libraries, the authors offer a powerful and persuasive case for adopting the community led approach in libraries worldwide. The book showcases good practice and outlines the challenges to community development work. With public libraries facing budget cuts, this book offers an alternative way forward based on a community led approach to developing needs based library services."

Thank you to Ken and his team for sharing his work with the WebJunction community and to all who work toward being community-led libraries.