Civic Awareness Month

September is Civic Awareness Month! As the International City/County Management Association notes, the month-long celebration “reminds us of the importance of cultivating an informed, involved citizenry that can work in partnership with its local government.”

Many public libraries have fostering civic engagement and social responsibility in their mission statements, and many offer programs that go beyond offering meeting room space. Here are a few examples:

  • The Evanston Public Library and branches of the Chicago Public Library hosted “Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement,” which asked, “Who are you? What is your role in the community? What can you do to make a difference, and where do you get started?” The five-session series encouraged teens to discuss iconic American art as they discovered their role in modern civic life and was a project of the ALA Public Programs Office with support from The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust and The Terra Foundation for American Art.

  • California’s statewide initiative “Get Involved: Powered by Your Library” is “designed to expand the visibility and contributions of skilled volunteers through public libraries. … We believe that public libraries, as information centers and community ‘living rooms,’ can serve as hubs for civic engagement. Through partnerships with existing volunteer resources, or by taking the lead where none exist, public libraries can encourage and attract more community members to service in libraries and throughout the community.” The project includes a website that helps connect volunteers with opportunities.

  • The Nashville (Tenn.) Public Library hosts “Community Cinema,” “a groundbreaking public education and civic engagement initiative featuring free monthly screenings of films from the Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens.”

  • For the 2008 elections, Saint Paul (Minn.) Public Library hosted a series of events featuring politically themed movies, nationally known speakers, local groups committed to civic engagement, candidates’ forums, voter registration, and more.

  • Medford (Mass.) Public Library hosted “Civic Engagement in Medford: How to Make a Difference in Your Community.” Speakers included a city councilor, School Committee members, and the Medford Square Revitalization Committee chair.

  • Kansas City (Mo.) Public Library hosted a book talk with Bert Berkley, author of Giving Back: Connecting You, Business, and Community, a “how-to guide for individuals and businesses who want to be philanthropic in their respective communities.”

  • Finally, librarians from Nashua (N.H.) Public Library; Wilkinson Public Library in Telluride, Colorado; and Boulder (Colo.) Public Library shared some of their civic engagement programs in a Programming Librarian blog post.

There are also a number of resources available on civic engagement: