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.
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.
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:
Many different library staff support community engagement efforts.
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
These 10–15-minute presentations explore how to facilitate local conversations, partner for impact, and create valuable community programming.
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.
Related WebJunction resources
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.
Related WebJunction resources
- “Let's Talk Race” Toolkits [Webinar]
- Promote Community Engagement and Challenge Prejudice with a Human Library [Webinar]
- Strengthen Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Practice Through Self-Paced Learning [Webinar]
- Doing the Work Externally and Internally: Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion [Webinar]
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.
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
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.
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.
From the OCLC Next blog
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.
07 July 2022
This webinar will explore the characteristics of adults with low literacy levels and provide strategies for library staff to support reading literacy in adults.
14 July 2022
This session will discuss the life cycle of a collection, including weeding techniques, collection management policies, and how to motivate reluctant weeders.
12 August 2022
This webinar will provide an overview of mental health information and services available to Veterans and members of military communities, and to address the risks and protective factors for suicidal behaviors.
18 March 2021
A panel discussion with three passionate library leaders
- Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]
This event has passed. View the archive.