Great Ideas for Innovative Community Engagement

Jennifer Peterson /

Community-Generated Ideas on the Future of Libraries

Image courtesy Francine Madera on FacebookA recent Huffington Post article tells of a Facebook experiment that spawned over 150 community-generated ideas on the future of Miami’s libraries. Rebecca Fishman Lipsey and Francine Madera, in 100 Great Ideas for the Future of Libraries -- A New Paradigm for Civic Engagement, share how they launched the 10-day experiment after exploring how to better draw communities - the end-users - into the discussion.

… perhaps the issue is that public spaces don't exist where people from all backgrounds can engage in meaningful idea-sharing and collaborative community problem-solving in a user-friendly, free, convenient, welcoming way, where their ideas will actually be heard and considered by decision-makers.

The open-idea forum on Facebook, called 100 Great Ideas, invited anyone to join in the discussion by sharing an idea or insight on the future of Miami-Dade libraries and “within days, 150 ideas were brought to the online space and the discussion group grew to include more than 600 members.”

In their article they share these major takeaways from the experience:

  • People want to engage - they need better access points.
  • We as citizens must take ownership of the crucial role we can and should play in our public government.
  • The public is ready for elected and appointed leaders to actively solicit input and create spaces for people to inform them.
  • We must foster an ongoing culture of engagement.
  • There are some pretty innovative things already happening in the library space.

And they summarized the 150 great ideas gathered under these 10 themes on the future of libraries:

  1. Tech Tools
  2. Mixed Use Space
  3. Leadership
  4. Expanded Services
  5. Design + Ambiance
  1. Partnerships
  2. Essential Community Services
  3. Events
  4. Branding + Marketing
  5. Revenue Streams

ALA Midwinter Focus on Community Engagement

Big Ideas coming in! image courtesy Calgary New Central Library on FlickrALA has been partnering with the The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in recent years, to explore ways that libraries can engage with their communities. The Libraries Transforming Communities initiative aims to help libraries turn outward and better leverage their trusted position in the community to engage people on issues that matter to them. There are a number of excellent tools made available to all, including the Step-By-Step Guide to Turning Outward to Your Community and Public Innovators Lab Workbook.

Additional Community Engagement Resources

A quick search on WebJunction surfaced Betha Gutche’s comprehensive 2012 feature, The Engaged and Embedded Library: Moving from talk to action which explores a variety of initiatives, tools, and examples of libraries engaging their communities. The range and scope of community engagement, from social media experiments to strategic planning, confirm there is growing commitment for libraries to not only meet the ever-changing needs of citizens, but to do so with deliberate and meaningful community engagement.