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:

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Event promotion

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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

Create fun fitness programs to support community wellness

Mesa Public Library celebrated National Bike Month with its Bikes to Books contest. Kids were invited to design bike symbol art with the winning design to be installed on the city’s shared use path.

Explore ideas to create a library fitness program

Photos: Mesa Public Library
“Photos courtesy Mesa Public Library”

Featured story

Offer greater inclusivity with access to a sensory room

Hopkinton Public Library identified a need for sensory support of the community’s neurodivergent residents. Through an ALA grant, they were able to transform an old broom closet into a sensory room accessible to all.

Learn about Hopkinton’s sensory room

Photo: Hopkinton Public Library sensory room
“Photo courtesy Hopkinton 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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Aug 8

08 August 2024

Work It Out @ Your Library with the Wombats!

Learn the important role your library can play in supporting young children learning computational thinking skills through Work It Out @ Your Library!

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

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On-demand events

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Jul 17

17 July 2024

Cultural humility in library work

Explore the benefits of incorporating cultural humility into library practice, whether through interpersonal interactions or to inform and improve policies and procedures.

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

This event has passed. View the archive.

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Jun 18

18 June 2024

Data storytelling 101

This webinar provides an orientation to data storytelling that centers cultural humility while leveraging storytelling dynamics.

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

This event has passed. View the archive.

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May 22

22 May 2024

Cardholder signup policies: Access in practice

Learn key findings and takeaways from national research on cardholder signup policies from public libraries across the country.

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

This event has passed. View the archive.

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