Be Changed By The Conversation

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Presentation given at KLA 2009 on community engagement in libraries.

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Be Changed By The Conversation

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

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