Rob Thomson is a library worker and educator who believes in strong networks, looking outside of the library world for inspiration and collaboration and turning up! In this first guest post for Curious Noggin, Rob explores why libraries should be using community development frameworks to build stronger library services.
Library-Based Community Development – what even is that? I mean, is it even a thing?
Well . . . yes . . . and no. In the social welfare world, ABCD or Asset Based Community Development is a well-known thing and a part of how they help communities come together and achieve things and promote community development. It’s an established framework that asks participants to look at a community (any size) and see what assets that community already has, rather than look at a community and see the things it doesn’t have. So rather than concentrate on the negative (what that community doesn’t have and would like), it accentuates the positive by looking at what assets the community already has (but is often unaware of because no one has looked before).
These assets can be people, places, and organisations. Often people are unaware that someone in their community is an expert in (insert names of specialisation here). Or that there’s groups of people in organisations doing different things. Or that there’s a hall or space available for community events, because no one has asked before. ABCD looks at the possibilities (which may be subject to some restrictions).
LBCD is taking that idea and seeing it through the lens of the library being at the centre of the community and the connecting point to all these organisations and people. Often space is an issue in libraries but if the library knows there’s another space available somewhere else, and that there’s a community group they can co-opt to help run an event with a community ‘expert’ available to talk, for instance, then suddenly options are opened up. The library isn’t then restricted to the physical space of the library. Possibilities suddenly become available. Pop-up library events can use halls, or parks, or the local swimming pool.
Libraries are already places people go to connect with new ideas and entertainment and learning. LBCD helps libraries other spaces and organisations and people to facilitate that.
I first came across ABCD with a friend who is a community development person and has been working in that area for years. After I researched ABCD I could see how libraries could use this framework, and then I found that Chicago Library had developed a toolkit to facilitate libraries to conducted their own ABCD survey.
And so, we now have Library-Based Community Development, the next thing is to ‘Australianise’ it.
Their eight lessons for community engagement are:
- Get outside the doors. Successful community/library relations are proactive.
- Find the leaders. A concerted effort to discover who’s who in the community makes all the difference.
- Be creative about what the library can contribute.
- Discover and contribute to the unique capacities and conditions of the community.
- Support local businesses and institutions.
- Make the library building a community centre.
- Create a community-minded culture among the library staff and volunteers.
- Support library investments that jump start community redevelopment efforts.
I’d encourage you to take a look at The Engaged Library: Chicago Stories of Community Building by the Urban Libraries Council – it’s an excellent starting point. And then think about the eight lessons and have a go at coming up with ideas to put one of them into action at your library!
You can chat with Rob on Twitter or leave a comment below, he will definitely reply!