Managing your relationship with the community by Jamie LaRue

I’ve written in many places about one of the key shifts in librarianship. We are moving from being library-centric to being community-centric. This movement is based on two core ideas: first, that libraries will perform better when they understand the environment in which they operate; and second, that true advocacy is about solving problems together, about helping to build an agenda for the community, then contributing to it. Libraries that make their communities stronger get stronger support from the community.

So how does the director systematically inform him- or herself about community players and issues in the first year, especially in a new town? (Assistant Directors moving up within the same organization might have a handle on this, or might not.)

I propose a method that can be personal or institutional. Either approach begins the same way: work up a list of community movers and shakers. Who are the influencers in your community? When you’re still new to the community, finding that information may seem hard. But I find that two exercises, one with staff, one with board, generates 40-50 names quickly. The exercise is this: as you think about these broad areas of the community, who makes a difference? The categories are in alphabetical order.

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