The American Library Association ALA Center for Civic Life (CCL) promotes
engagement and fosters public deliberation through libraries. Launched in 2010 in
conjunction with the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forum Institute, the
Center is building the capacity of libraries and librarians to help citizens get more engaged in the civic life of their communities.
Librarians are concerned about the erosion of civic engagement and participation in our society. Today, many are working closely with their communities to find new means to connect citizens and boost civic participation. Libraries are undertaking a vast array of innovative, creative approaches that engage communities and assist them in meeting today’s most pressing civic challenges. They are: convening groups to consider local issues and teach civic skills; building community information literacy partnerships; hosting community-wide reading clubs, creating digital neighborhood directories that link residents and services; enhancing civic literacy, and partnering with local museums, public broadcasting stations and others to build community capacity to work on civic issues.
Among the Center’s activities are its survey and map of libraries participating in the civic life of their communities. The Center has become a hub of a network of active mentors capable of strengthening and expanding their work locally, statewide and nationally, and connecting it with others involved with similar activities throughout the country. The Center has also trained moderators to convene and conduct local deliberative forums. In the spring of 2012, CCL sponsored a 4-part series of training webinars focused on convening and moderating public deliberative public forums. These webinars are now archived for free public viewing at www.programminglibrarian.org. Training tools are posted on the ALA Connect Libraries Foster Civic Engagement site.
For many years, ALA has worked with libraries to encourage public deliberation, hosting moderator training sessions and other programs related to community building and engagement. Prior to the founding of CCL, members of the Center’s advisory committee worked with the Intellectual Freedom Roundtable to frame the issue of privacy. That framing is part of the Office of Intellectual Freedom Privacy Revolution that facilitates public dialogue about the issue of privacy. Numerous ALA members have participated in these forums at ALA conferences and beyond.
The ALA Center is also assessing the experience of libraries with public deliberation as part of a research agreement with the Kettering Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan research organization that asks one central question: What does it take for democracy to work as it should? CCL is documenting the growing engagement of libraries with their communities and the challenges and opportunities of a nation-wide program that supports local public institutions such as libraries.
CCL encourages librarians to fill out its survey to get a better sense of their participation the civic life of their communities so it can map these activities, highlight their important civic work, and create linkages among similarly minded local and national groups. For background and more details about the involvement of libraries in civic life, see the 2012 article authored by CCL Chair, Nancy Kranich: “Libraries and Civic Engagement.”
The ALA Center for Civic Life has partnered with a number of national civic organizations to foster community engagement; among them: the American Democracy Project (AASCU); America Speaks; the Urban Libraries Council; the American Bar Association Public Education Division Civics program; and Journalism that Matters. CCL also identifies local partners involved with civic life and continues to link up with national organizations pursuing similar civic goals.
For more information, contact Mary Ghikas, firstname.lastname@example.org, ALA Senior Associate Executive Director or Nancy Kranich, email@example.com, Founder and Chair of the ALA Center for Civic Life Advisory Committee.
Follow the ALA Center for Civic Life—
- Blog: http://discuss.ala.org/civicengagement/
- ALA Connect: http://connect.ala.org/node/64933
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ALACenterForCivicLife
- Tumblr: http://centerforciviclife.tumblr.com/
Subscribe to ALA’s Civic Engagement listserv:
1. Go to: http://lists.ala.org/wws
2. Click on “View All Lists”
3. Scroll down to “firstname.lastname@example.org”
4. Click on “Subscribe”
- Meet with colleagues at the ALA Libraries Foster Civic Engagement Membership Initiative Group–convenes at each ALA conference
- Subscribe to Programming Librarian: http://www.programminglibrarian.org/newsletter_signup.html#.TywteyNaNqE
- Fill out the Libraries and Civic Engagement survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LibraryCivicEngagement
- View our Libraries and Civic Engagement Geo Map: http://batchgeo.com/map/4776ad2baf99af04000fa4e647599df0
- Learn to convene and moderate forums at: http://www.programminglibrarian.org/civic-engagement.html#.UHMc5vl279o