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.

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.

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.

Recent insights and perspectives by and for libraries

Cooking up community engagement in Kansas City, Missouri

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.

Photo: Green Hills Library Center

Workforce development: A library partnership success story

Find out how the Columbus Metropolitan Library created a successful workforce development program in partnership with nearby healthcare technology company CoverMyMeds and other local partners.

Photo: Columbus Metropolitan Library job fair

From the OCLC Next  blog

Purposeful change management

Tyler Ferguson, OCLC Director of Implementation, talks about how to “take control with purposeful change” after a period of reactive changes, like those required by COVID-19.

Photo illustation:  Change management

Upcoming events

View more upcoming events

Featured on-demand

More on-demand

Show details

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.

View more on-demand webinars

Expand your community efforts with OCLC products

Stay connected with OCLC Abstracts


OCLC's digest of news, events, and research

Subscribe now