The Spokane County (Wash.) Library District is known for its customer service, material lending and management of public dollars. So when a new library director suggested a community-oriented initiative to staff members in 2012, some rolled their eyes. But after some initial skepticism, the changes have been overwhelmingly positive: Librarians see community engagement work as part of their fundamental responsibilities, and the library has been invited to participate in the community in new and exciting ways.
To kick off this city-wide change Library Director Nancy Ledeboer asked branch librarians to engage their residents in conversations. From the discussions, the librarians learned many people felt disconnected from the community.
With new knowledge about what their residents wanted, the library set out to create programs to bring people together. Librarians in the Valley Branch started visiting an alternative high school every week to help students with résumé-building and interviewing skills. The Deer Park Branch partnered with an Eagle Scout to haul 300 bags of trash and wood out of a local park, which was renamed “Library Park.”
“We could have just asked for money and hired a landscaper, but doing it the way we did created leadership opportunities for people to step forward,” said Ledeboer. “It connected a whole bunch of other people and gave [people] opportunities to socialize.”