How We Work With Libraries and Library Organizations
Helping libraries become change makers within their communities.
Libraries around the US are searching for new and better ways of doing their work. They're rethinking the range of programs and services they offer, the way they engage with community members, and their very identities. If you work in a library or with a library organization, chances are, you've been pondering questions like:
- How can libraries become leaders and change agents within the communities they serve?
- How can libraries meet the needs of the diverse audiences within these communities?
- How can libraries combat hostile public discourses that threaten their commitment to intellectual freedom and to serving all people?
- What do library workers need to effectively advocate for themselves and their institutions?
We partner with libraries and library organizations to jointly address questions like these. Through research, evaluation, and capacity building programs, we help library professionals devise new, evidence-based approaches to their work. Our aim is not to prescribe solutions or provide answers, but instead, to empower library partners to think more creatively and productively about their work. By bringing social science insights and perspectives to this work, we create a foundation for research-based decision making – one that helps libraries and library organizations build the world they're envisioning.
How do we work with library partners?
Our work with libraries and library organizations is grounded in collaboration. At every step of the way (be it formulating questions, designing methods and tools, analyzing data, or interpreting findings), we work together with our library partners to co-create knowledge that reflects their needs and goals. By embedding ourselves alongside our library partners, we help create a foundation for evidence-informed decision making – one that helps them advance toward their goals and effectively engage with their communities.
What does collaboration with us look like?
One of our primary aims as an organization is to help libraries and other cultural institutions promote human flourishing and a thriving society. When collaborating with library partners, we work toward this goal by:
- Conducting interviews and focus groups with library workers to learn about their priorities, goals, achievements, and the various challenges they face.
- Conducting national surveys to map out the landscape of current practices in connection with specific topics of interest.
- Gathering feedback and expert guidance through consultation with other library researchers.
- Holding virtual and in-person meetings to set agendas, design surveys and other instruments, collect and analyze data, and promote strategic thinking.
- Creating logic models and gap analyses that help libraries build their evaluation capacities.
- Making joint presentations at professional meetings and academic conferences.
- Publishing case studies that showcase the work of individual libraries.
What are the results of our collaborative work?
Working with individual libraries, library systems, and professional networks and associations, we've built up a portfolio of work that library workers and their supporters can leverage to make progress toward their goals. Whether it be workshops that help libraries measure and expand the impact of their public programs, tools that can be used to refine their strategic plans and theories of action, literature reviews that highlight emerging trends across the field, scholarly studies that advance our understanding of current library practices, position papers that offer frameworks for action, or web articles that help libraries take a critical look at their operations, this work offers a foundation for evidence-informed decision making in connection with many important developments across the library field. Through our library research and evaluation, we've explored phenomena such as:
- The skills and competencies library workers need to develop and run public programs
- The role libraries play in supporting people who want to establish their own businesses, in sustaining local entrepreneurial ecosystems, and in addressing entrepreneurial inequities
- Ways libraries can support STEM and health learning through their public programs
- Strategies and tactics libraries can make use of to promote community conservations around controversial issues that are often difficult to discuss publicly
- Ways libraries can become sites of intergenerational financial learning
- Practices libraries can adopt to "turn outward" and become community-centered agents of social change
- How libraries are much more than books, and their ongoing transformation into bonafide community hubs
- Ways libraries can make their spaces and services more accessible to people with disabilities
- How libraries define their audiences and the various publics they serve
- The different community organizations libraries are partnering with, and what is needed to make those partnerships effective
- Ways libraries can help create communities that are connected, knowledgeable, creative, civically engaged, healthy, economically vital, welcoming, joyful, and caring.
Interested in working with us?
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org — we'd love to talk more!
Photo by Jacqueline Brandwayn @ Unsplash