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

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.

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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:

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Event promotion

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Many different library staff support community engagement efforts.

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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

Getting creative in Montana to broaden community reach

The Billings Public Library hosted a skate clinic with experienced riders, providing an overview and practice drills. The library also meets skateboarders where they are with the “BPL at the Skate Park.” 

See more from Billings’ skate clinic

Photo: Billings Public Library Skate Clinic

Featured story

Creating community in Ohio through healthy food access

Toledo Lucas County Public Library is working with the SAME Café to offer healthy food to users. This collaboration helps the library meet a need it was aware of but didn’t have resources to support.

Learn about the library’s partnership

Photo: SAME Café in the Toledo Lucas County Public Library

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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Oct 3

03 October 2023

Climate Justice

This webinar with the Sustainable Libraries Initiative will explore the disproportional impacts of climate change on systematically oppressed communities.

  • Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]

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