In our February 2016 WebJunction Crossroads poll, we explored the ways in which public libraries support civic engagement. This concept has been applied in a number of different ways, ranging from services and programs for newcomers, resources for voters in a representative democracy, or supporting the civil and civic rights of an engaged and informed citizenry. We're just beginning to learn more about these terms and approaches, and recognize that some of them may be new to libraries too.
We asked readers to reflect on and respond to the questions below to help us understand how libraries are approaching this work in their communities. In addition to the charts summarizing the 44 responses, we've included a short list of resources with examples of ways libraries are engaging with their communities in these areas.
Citizenship and Immigration
Which of these services related to citizenship and immigration does your library currently provide or hope to provide in the future?
Citizenship and Immigration Resources
- "Your public library welcomes you" pamphlet with information about core library services, available in over 50 languages including English. Created by State Library of New South Wales, Australia (see also Multilingual Glossary signage database)
- Hartford Public Library (CT), Immigration & Citizenship
- Omaha Public Library (NE) introduced English Language Learning Bags, for patrons who are learning English as a second language. "The new kits contain items to accommodate three learning levels so an entire family may benefit." The library provides a number of additional resources for new Americans, including language and citizenship classes, as well as materials available in various languages. Their Welcome to the Library video is available in seven languages.
- Orlando Public Library (FL) hosted a naturalization ceremony where 49 people representing 25 countries became U.S. citizens
- Lexington Public Library in Kentucky hosts an annual World Refugee Day Summit (see also #LexWorldRefugeeDay)
- Putting the Public Back in Public Libraries: Community-Led Libraries, a webinar and resources on the community-led library approach to library service planning.
Engaging Citizens in the Governing Process
Which of these services related to engaging citizens in the governing process and growing an informed citizenry does your library currently provide or hope to provide in the future?
Engaging Citizens in the Governing Process Resources
- Berkeley Public Library (CA), hosts a page with info from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters
- Arizona Library Association Legislative Toolkit: Meet Me at the Library (pdf)
- The Citizens Project, Kansas City Public Library (MO) co-hosted four public forums airing critical questions confronting the region, drawing 869 people and helping to steer official action.
Inclusion & Dialogue
Which of services related to inclusion, citizen power, or civic dialogue, does your library currently provide or hope to provide in the future?
Inclusion & Dialogue Resources
- From WebJunction
- Racial Equity in the Library, Part One: Where to Start?
- Racial Equity in the Library, Part Two: Diverse Collections, Programming, Resources
- 3 Ways Libraries Can Channel Understanding in Confusing Times (for numerous resources on strengthening collections and on hosting a Human Library)
- Hosting Public Forums @ Your Library, a series of webinars and resources from ALA
- Civic and Community Engagement Websites, prepared by Nancy Kranich, ALA Center for Civic Life (pdf)
- Choose Civility at the Howard County Library System (MD), a program to enhance respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance.
- Hartford Public Library (CT), Community & Civic Participation
- Creating Space for Civic Dialogue: California Humanities Council and Riverside County Library System
As you can see, these poll results cover a lot of territory, touching on a range of programs, services, and library staff competencies. As libraries continue to assess, respond, and innovate in these areas, WebJunction will continue to highlight opportunities and approaches so that we can learn from each other in support of civic engagement.