Skills for Community Centered Libraries

two men hugging each other, many people in background

How can you center the community when developing programs and services for your library? Over the past decade, we’ve heard a lot about community engagement and libraries. The California State Library has encouraged library staff to learn about several models of practice, such as Asset-Based Community Development, The Harwood Institute’s conversation-focused practice, the Aspen Institute’s strategies for community leadership and assessment, and Appreciative Inquiry techniques.


These efforts, however, haven’t always focused on all members of a library’s workforce. We’re lucky to benefit from the experience of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which through a multi-year IMLS grant developed Skills for Community-Centered Libraries, combining the best and most-accessible community engagement practices and providing training for all their staff members, from security guards to managers. I first heard about the project from front-line staff at the ALA midwinter conference in January 2020 and eagerly awaited the publication of the curriculum. Last summer, the project team presented several webinars through WebJunction and made the curriculum and facilitation guides available to everyone.


Now is your chance. Are you ready to be a pilot library, and learn how to immerse your staff in the community, improve communication, and learn how your programming can reflect local aspirations and interests? If so, we invite a team from your library to join a seven-week training where you’ll develop Skills for Community Centered Libraries. In this online learning experience led by expert instructors and facilitators, you will engage with other colleagues in your library as well as other California public libraries to reflect on the work you do, learn how to create small shifts in your professional practices and mindset, and work toward a common goal of engagement with the community as defined by the community.

By the end of this course, you will gain skills in:

  • identifying neighborhood assets
  • facilitating community meetings
  • understanding emerging neighborhood trends
  • enhancing your library’s community engagement initiatives

Up to six teams of California public library staff, made up of at least three and a maximum of six people, will have the opportunity to participate in this free course, offered by California Libraries Learn (CALL). Submit your application now for this unique opportunity.

Skills for Community Centered Libraries