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Be Changed By The Conversation


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Presentation given at KLA 2009 on community engagement in libraries.

Presentation given at KLA 2009 on community engagement in libraries.

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  • 1. Be changed by the conversation
    Community Engagement at Johnson County Library
  • 2. Outline
    What is community engagement?
    Why does JCL do community engagement?
    What is community engagement at JCL?
    What is the future of community engagement in libraries?
  • 3. What is community engagement?
    Position Summary:
    This full-time librarian will function as a member of the JCL Central Reference department with specific responsibilities for supporting the Library’s Citizen Engagement initiative. He or she will develop programs, resources and information services tied to citizen engagement projects, and will work closely with the Information and Readers’ Services Manager to integrate citizen engagement into the ongoing work of the Library. Librarians in Central Reference also have considerable patron contact time and cooperate in the day-to-day management of reference workflow.
    Required: MLS from an ALA accredited school, public service experience, experience with electronic information resources and technology.
    Preferred: Experience working with community outreach, citizen engagement, or event planning.
  • 4. What is community engagement?
    Democracy – getting people involved in governing
    Community development – strengthening civic muscle
    Service learning
    Community problem-solving – involving citizens in dealing with problems
  • 5. Democracy
    Get out the vote
    Increase awareness of issues on national, state and local levels
    Increase contact between candidates and constituents
  • 6. Community development
    Community involvement
    “Civic muscle”
  • 7. Service Learning
    Academic world
    Students get real-world experience in their chosen field
    Students are contributing to their communities
  • 8. Community problem-solving
    Citizens working together to solve the problems of their neighborhoods / communities / cities / regions
    Ex: KCK study circles
    Ex: One KC Voice transportation engagements
    Ex: Tyndall, SD creates youth center
  • 9. Who’s doing it?
    Federal government
    Neighborhood groups
    It’s an idea whose time has come.
  • 10. Why did we start this?
  • 11. Putnam’s thesis
    Social capital is failing
    1987 – 53% thought parents’ generation was better in terms of being a concerned citizen
    77% thought the nation was worse off because of lack of involvement in community activities
  • 12. More statistics
    1996 – only 8% believed the honesty and integrity of the average American were improving; 50% thought we were becoming less trustworthy
    Have we become less civil? 80 percent said yes
    1999 – 66% thought civic life had weakened
    80+% wanted more emphasis on community
  • 13. What Putnam saw
    Downward trends in political participation (voting, participating in campaigns, attending rallies)
    Civic participation (membership in organizations)
    Religious participation
    Workplace connections (union membership, professional associations)
  • 14. More bad news
    Informal social connections were also weakening
    Declines in social visiting, family dinners, card playing
    Sports participation is down, but spectating is up
    Doing culture is down, consuming culture is up; % of Americans who play an instrument down from 30% to 20% bet. 1976 and 1999.
  • 15. Why?
    Time and money pressures
    Mobility and sprawl
    Technology and mass media
    Generational change – WWII was a watershed
  • 16. So what?
    Social capital allows people to solve community problems
    “greases the wheels”
    Contributes to tolerance, empathy
    Effects on education, health, safe neighborhoods, economic prosperity
  • 17. Call to action
    Restore American community
    Improve civics education
    Increase participation in extracurricular activities
    Make workplaces more family friendly and congenial
    Urban planning initiatives to strengthen neighborhoods and reduce sprawl
  • 18. Call to action, cont.
    Religious involvement and tolerance
    Use technology to support community engagement rather than weaken it
    Use the arts as a means of bringing people together
    Find ways to encourage people to participate in the public life of their communities
  • 19. The challenges to community engagement
    Who are our conversation role models?
  • 20. Another book…
  • 21. Clustering of like-minded people
  • 22. Polarization
    Red vs. blue
    Conservative vs. liberal
    Us vs. them
    “idea segregation”
  • 23. Polarization
  • 24. Was the 2004 election stolen?
    Discrepancy between exit polls and results
    Republican voters were less likely to talk to younger poll takers.
    Poll takers associated with liberal media outlets
    “People avoided talking to those they thought had political leanings different from their own.”
  • 25. Partisanship
  • 26. Where did we start?
    First forum in 2001
    Used the National Issues Forums model
    Had a committee to oversee the project
    Initially had plans for speakers once a year and panel discussions
    Goal was to
  • 27. National Issues Forums
    Around since 1981
    “To increase citizen understanding of domestic policy issues and provide citizens with opportunities to express and convey informed opinions on the issues to the nation's decision makers.”
  • 28. National Issues Forums
    Dialogue and deliberation
    Three approaches
    Find common ground
    Forum is not a town hall meeting.
    It’s not a question and answer session.
    It’s a conversation.
  • 29. Other events of community interest
    Engagements – public input on community issues (transportation, solid waste management)
    Dialogues – science and religion, interfaith conversation
    Events – recycling, children and nature
  • 30. How do we put on a forum?
    Choose a topic
    Choose a guide
    Choose a date
    Find moderators
  • 31. How do we put on a forum? Cont.
    Email list
    Mailing list
    Cold calling
    Manage reservations, catering
    Prepare handouts, take-aways, packets
  • 32. More about take-aways
    Give attendees ways to:
    learn more
    do more
    get involved
    Market library resources
    Books, articles, databases
    Point to internet resources
    Ex: web sites, Google alerts
    Market for organizations who helped publicize
    Market other library events
  • 33. Web site
    Upcoming events
    Event archive
    Related events
    Comments – have never gotten one!
  • 34. The future … dun dundun!
    Take on some local issues.
    Develop an online component.
    Develop new partnerships.
    Do more assessment and follow-up.
  • 35. Why do community engagement?
    We’re already doing it.
    We aren’t just about books, and it’s not all on the Internet.
    Library as third place.
    Strong libraries can help build strong communities which then help build strong libraries.
    Why not?
  • 36. My advice
    Be prepared for chaos.
    Ask for help.