Community engagement

Build connections, grow relationships, and increase your impact

Today’s engaged library workers inspire their communities and each other in countless ways. Whether sharing successful ideas with colleagues or creating community events, outreach activities, and partnerships, you make a difference. With OCLC programs, research, and services, you can spotlight the work you do for libraries everywhere—not just across town, but around the world.

Want to share your library’s community success stories?

Engaged Libraries social media campaign

We are bringing voices together with #EngagedLibraries, a new social media campaign that invites library workers to share ideas, highlight impactful programs and partnerships, and celebrate breakthroughs and the people who make them happen. Help us grow the conversation by posting today and year-round.

Share your story

Get energized with community engagement talks

These 10–15-minute presentations explore how to facilitate local conversations, partner for impact, and create valuable community programming.

Video: Wellness culture—Start with staff, extend to your community

Wellness culture: Start with staff, extend to your community

Steven Potter, Director, Mid-Continent Public Library, talks about workplace wellness programs in place even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear about his team’s approach and commitment to wellness, including building design, an on-staff wellness coordinator, and the successful Access Wellness community program.

Video: Build bridges with what bonds and inspires your community

Build bridges with what bonds and inspires your community

The Wilmington Institute Library has embraced its evolving role as a social, intellectual, and recreational community hub. Hear how Executive Director Jamar Rahming and his staff make vital community connections through arts and cultural programs that encourage conversations, including bringing legendary Black artists, athletes, and other public figures to Wilmington.

Video: Digital equity through community partnerships

Digital equity through community partnerships

The COVID-19 pandemic rocketed digital equity into the national spotlight. How can you keep building on that momentum at your library? Dr. Audrey Barbakoff, CEO, Co/Lab Capacity, explains how community partnerships can lead to sustainable innovation in digital equity.

Video: Expand multilingual access for library customers

Expand multilingual access for library customers

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has significantly expanded multilingual access to its programs and services in recent years, with growing Spanish, Amharic, Tagalog, French, Yoruba, and Arabic-speaking populations. Nicholas A. Brown, COO for Communication and Outreach, shares tactics that can be adapted to make your library more welcoming for non-English speakers.

What is community engagement?

It means different things to different libraries, but most agree that it’s about interacting, connecting, and communicating.

“[It's] using our resources to connect with and meet the needs of people of our county of all ages. [And also using] our ability to work with other agencies to reach all demographics, assess the wants and needs of those being served, and create a plan of engagement to truly achieve a positive outcome by forming a network of services all working together.”

—US public library

How do libraries engage in communities and on campuses?

80% plan or participate in community-focused events

77% partner with local organizations (even more so for publics)

49% collaborate with local leaders to solve problems

31% support or lead discussions on difficult local or national issues

Community engagement starts with listening.

Icon: Online survey

82% of libraries assess community needs by conducting surveys.

44% have an advisory group

32% survey non-library users

23% hold public meetings

Library staff dedicated to community engagement are busy—really busy.

Most focus on creating outreach and programming for the campus or community.

They also work on:

Icon: Bullhorn


Icon: Event stage

Event promotion

Icon: Partnership


Many different library staff support community engagement efforts.

Icon: Library worker

41% don’t have a dedicated staff position, but wish they did

“Community engagement is vital to the success of a library and enrichment of the community. Community engagement is bringing together all parties to provide accurate information, needed resources, and a sense of belonging.”

—US academic library

About the above survey results: OCLC conducted an online study November 5-19, 2020, with a sample of 223 U.S. public and academic libraries. Results are +/- 6% at the 95% confidence level.

Recent insights and perspectives by and for libraries

Featured #EngagedLibraries post

Helping local businesses thrive in Henderson, Nevada

Libraries are valuable to entrepreneurs who need resources to start or expand businesses. The Green Valley Library in Nevada set up a “Business Hub” to provide local entrepreneurs with business development support.

See the library's post

Photo: Business Hub at Green Valley Library in Nevada

Featured story

Cooking up community engagement in Kansas City

Read about the new Green Hills Library Center that is centered around food-related businesses and entrepreneurs—an outgrowth of the library's wildly successful programs for small businesses.

Learn about a library focused on food

Photo: Green Hills Library Center

From the OCLC Next  blog

Build new community connections with partnership marketing

Meet all your library marketing goals and reach entirely new audiences, while also increasing awareness of your resources and services.

Photo illustation: Partnership Marketing

Upcoming events

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Mar 31

31 March 2023

Universal Design at Your Library

This presentation will introduce the principles of Universal Design and offer concrete advice for how to apply each of the principles at any library.

  • Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]

View more upcoming events

Featured on-demand

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Apr 28

28 April 2022

CONTENTdm Connect

Learn how libraries are engaging their communities through their digital collections during this CONTENTdm special event.

  • Time: 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]

This event has passed. View the archive.

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