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libraries transforming communities focus on small and rural libraries
Small and rural libraries that received funding from ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative often developed conversation series that built on previously established partnerships and existing programming.
Community engagement is a key component to the work of all library types. In fact, knowledge of the community is one of the 9 Core Library Programming Competencies as identified by NILPPA (the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment).
The town of Circle, Montana has a population of about 600 people. It is an isolated place, a place where the nearest Walmart is over 100 miles away. This being the case, Circle residents often depend on their local library as a place to find resources, build connections and strengthen relationships.
Libraries participating in Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries were encouraged to share information about their programming and its outcomes through letters to local elected officials.
Through ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative, 567 libraries nationwide have received grants of up to $3,000 to support community engagement efforts. After examining reports from 443 of the participating libraries, we categorized the topics of discussion to identify common themes.
Through our evaluation of ALA's Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative, we’ve seen libraries reach out to their publics to assess needs, host discussions about pressing issues, and expand their roles as community centers.
When the staff at Waimea (Hawaii) Public Library learned that the county of Kauai needed their community’s feedback on development plans for a new 417-acre parcel of land, they saw an opportunity to continue the library’s engagement work. What the library staff could not have known was that it would also be an opportunity to be part of helping a community regain trust in its leaders.
One of the major issues small and rural libraries faced during the pandemic was planning programs while complying with local health guidelines. These libraries often have limited indoor space, making it difficult to maintain social distance when bringing in large groups of participants. The communities they serve may also lack reliable internet access, limiting access to virtual programming.
Libraries provide educational programming, a welcoming space, and access to computers and internet connection. This last point has become increasingly important during the pandemic, especially for libraries serving rural areas. In order to safely continue serving their communities, they have faced both the obstacles of switching to virtual programming and ensuring people can access it, on what is often a tiny budget.
It’s easy to imagine a successful program as a packed Zoom call or large outdoor gathering — but major change doesn’t necessarily require major turnout.
Through ALA's Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative, libraries engage their small communities in discussion around issues that matter. Here are the stories of two libraries whose programs started small.
The Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries initiative supports small and rural libraries to engage their communities in discussion around issues that matter. However, the most important topics to talk about are often the most controversial. Here are two stories of how librarians prepared for difficult conversations.
Igiugig Village ("iggy-AH-gig") has a population of 70. Located in southwestern Alaska on the south bank of the mouth of the Kvichak River and Lake Iliamna, its population consists primarily of Yup’ik Alaska Natives. As a tiny and remote community of people who live close to the land, villagers rely on salmon as the main food source and have a passion for sustainability and clean energy.