How libraries factor into community well-being

How libraries factor into community well-being

Posted on February 16, 2016 by Ann Hardy

Editor's Note: Ann Hardy is the community engagement coordinator for Sarasota County Public Libraries. 

What role do librarians play in the well-being of a community? David Lankes, a scholar in librarianship, proposes that the mission of librarians is to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in communities. Lankes also argues that knowledge is created through conversation – the back and forth that allows people (either one-on-one, in a group, or inside one’s own head) to try out ideas and change what they know.

This description of the role of librarians illuminates why the American Library Association, through its Libraries Transform Communities initiative, has adopted the Harwood Institute's methodologies to assist librarians in meeting their missions.

Harwood encourages librarians to constantly turn outward to the community, create public knowledge through community conversations, and expand community conditions which allow positive change to occur. In Harwood terms, librarians become public innovators.

The Patterson Foundation is contributing to the development of public innovators in Sarasota and Manatee counties through public-innovator training for library staff provided by the Harwood Institute. Through the skills attained in training, librarians are able to bring out and connect the diverse voices found in their communities.

The video below was recorded during a workshop on Harwood methods sponsored by the Tampa Bay Library Consortium. The workshop focused on how libraries can use Harwood methods to improve communities. Casey McPhee, the director of the Largo Public Library, and I presented to library staff from throughout Florida.


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