Community Dialogues to Enhance Inclusion and Equity in Public Libraries
Keywords:public library, community, equity, conversation, inclusion
Over the past decade, public libraries have shifted from quiet repositories of knowledge to raucous centers of public engagement. Public libraries seek to fill the educational and social gaps left by other informal education organizations (such as museums and science centers) that target specific populations or require paid access for their resources. These gaps are filled by hiring social workers, providing accessible makerspaces, developing English language learner (ELL) programs, facilitating hands-on STEM activities, providing information about community resources and social services, providing summer meals, and much more. But what are the next steps to continue this high level of engagement? By utilizing a Community Dialogue Framework (Dialogues), libraries have engaged with new members of their communities to reach groups not currently benefiting from library services, provided equitable access to new resources, engaged with new partners, and - in the time of COVID - began to address the digital divide in their communities. An examination of forty public libraries’ engagement with and learning from Dialogues was conducted using a qualitative approach and reflexive thematic analysis. An account from a librarian who hosted multiple Dialogues is also presented as a first-person narrative describing their methods and successes using the tool. Benefits and practical considerations for conducting Dialogues are discussed in the results section, followed by limitations and recommendations for further research in this area.
Copyright (c) 2021 Anne Holland, Jen Jocz, Stephanie Vierow-Fields, Dr. Zachary Stier, Lindsay Gypin
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.