Manatee and Sarasota Library Staff Complete the Harwood Public Innovators Lab

Manatee and Sarasota Library Staff Complete the Harwood Public Innovators Lab

Posted on December 05, 2016 by Charlie Parker

Editor’s Note: Charlie Parker is Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium (TBLC).

On September 21–23, strong contingents of library staff from the Manatee County Public Library System and Sarasota County Libraries completed a two and a half day Harwood Institute for Public Innovation lab sponsored and coordinated by The Patterson Foundation. About 120 attendees participated in the high-energy sessions led by Rich Harwood.

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation has been working actively with public libraries in their effort to help people, organizations, and communities learn to come together to identify and achieve their shared aspirations. The American Library Association (ALA) and Harwood have partnered on the Libraries Transforming Communities initiative to provide libraries and library staff with Harwood’s powerful community building tools.

Several employees from libraries around the TBLC region have traveled out of state for this training and to our knowledge, this is the first time it has been provided in Florida. The Manatee | Sarasota training is also unique in that it has the full support of both county’s lead administrators who attended the first day along with management team members. Because of The Patterson Foundation's involvement and the county administrative support, this initiative is being used as a pilot and model for replication in other communities around the country.

Two key features of the approach are Turning Outward and Community Conversations. Turning Outward is literally about turning outward and focusing on people and communities in the decision-making process and Community Conversations are events in which community members are invited to share their aspirations for their communities. Innovators then can move through a process that identifies strategies for making discovered aspirations a reality. These community conversations can be offered broadly to discover participants’ personal and civic aspirations or may address a particular topic such as how they perceive the library’s role in the community. There is much more to the training than these two takeaways. The Manatee | Sarasota cohort came away with proven techniques to embed turning outward across both their professional and personal lives, the confidence to feel authentically qualified to identify the readiness of their community to begin facilitating change, and the ability to employ specific engagement tools to get at the root of community needs.

ALA has curated Case Studies that describe how libraries have used Turning Outward and Community Conversation approaches to make fundamental changes in their communities. We look forward to learning how participation in the training is used by libraries!


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