2.03.2012

Resource: the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit

Yesterday, via the Library Success wiki, I came across Working Together and their (link to pdf) Community-Led Libraries Toolkit. I'm less than a third of the way through reading the toolkit, but it's already the most valuable resource I've seen on working with diverse and socially excluded populations in libraries. I love how it acknowledges that good intentions, open minds, and talent aren't enough (aren't much at all, really) right in the beginning, and moves on from there. I'm linking it here for later reference and because I recommend even the little I've read so far (not just to library staff, but to school staff, nonprofit staff, etc). Below, some brief quotes to give the gist (bold mine):

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[on involving community members in planning] "This process is not just about offering a service or developing a collection: it is about building and strengthening the abilities of socially excluded community members to engage in the library--not just as service recipients, but as active and confident community members. Sometimes, the most important outcome of community-led service planning is not the actual products or services, but the change in socially excluded community members' sense of their importance to the library, their right to be involved, and their ability and confidence to engage...

...Overall, it is always important to keep in mind that our role in the community is not to tell community members what they need or identify the best service for their needs. You probably have creative ideas, special skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities, all of which could achieve a tangible service output immediately. However, your solution might not be the one the community would have chosen and developed if involved collaboratively, and you will have missed the opportunity for capacity and confidence building. Instead, use your expertise, skills, and knowledge to facilitate the discussion and implementation of the community's self-identified solution.

You will really have achieved the goal of inclusive service planning when socially excluded community members feel that the library is their library and that they have a voice and sense of belonging...

...Many barriers to accessing library service result from the differences between how libraries and library staff perceive the needs of socially excluded people and how socially excluded people perceive their own needs."

[on feedback-gathering methods libraries and other institutions traditionally use, like polls, comment cards, surveys]: "Traditional consultation techniques favor existing library users and/or economically-advantaged, engaged, and confident non-users."

Community-Led Libraries Toolkit

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