Thursday, January 18, 2007

Building community

There are lots of ways in which public libraries do community development. By "community development" in this context, I mean working to strengthen and improve the communities they serve. We do this in many ways, including:
  • educational and informational services enabling self-improvement
  • strengthening businesses
  • collaborating with other community groups and agencies
  • selecting materials relevant to community issues
  • preserving local history
  • providing programs which bring people together, especially to exchange ideas, with the library as a gathering place
  • encouraging staff involvement with service clubs & community groups
Personal involvement outside the library should start -- though not end -- with the library director. In Appleton, I've been fortunate enough to be involved with a number of community organizations. But in this week of Martin Luther King's birthday, it seems right to talk about Toward Community: Unity in Diversity.

Toward Community is a grass-roots diversity organization. A number of other organizations are members, but mostly it's composed of individuals. Their mission statement reads:

Toward Community: Unity in Diversity builds connections and community among groups and individuals in the Fox Valley through celebration, education and advocacy for the broad spectrum of human diversity.

I'm an individual member of Toward Community, but the library is an organizational member. For several years, the library has been one of the co-sponsors of Toward Community's annual Martin Luther King celebration (picture above). We've also co-sponsored international films with Toward Community, and they've helped promote some of the library's multicultural resources. Likewise, the library has a membership and seat on the board in our local multicultural center.
IMHO, these multicultural community groups are singularly consistent with the notion of public libraries representing all points of view. It's therefore natural and appropriate that we should support them, as well as market our services to their members.

It's a special case of a general principle. We are similarly involved in our downtown association and Chamber of Commerce. If you want the community involved in the library, the library has to be involved in the community.

1 comment:

Gillian said...

Thumbs up to you and APL. I feel that libraries are such a central and essential part of communties. It is always good to see individuals working towards goals like you are.