Ask, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement (Paperback)

Ask, Listen, Empower: Grounding Your Library Work in Community Engagement Cover Image
By Mary Davis Fournier (Editor), Ostman Sarah (Editor)
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Foreword by Tracie D. Hall

Community engagement isn’t simply an important component of a successful library—it’s the foundation upon which every service, offering, and initiative rests. Working collaboratively with community members—be they library customers, residents, faculty, students or partner organizations— ensures that the library works, period. This important resource from ALA’s Public Programs Office (PPO) provides targeted guidance on how libraries can effectively engage with the public to address a range of issues for the betterment of their community, whether it is a city, neighborhood, campus, or something else. Featuring contributions by leaders active in library-led community engagement, it’s designed to be equally useful as a teaching text for LIS students and a go-to handbook for current programming, adult services, and outreach library staff. Balancing practical tools with case studies and stories from field, this collection explores such key topics as

  • why libraries belong in the community engagement realm;
  • getting the support of board and staff;
  • how to understand your community;
  • the ethics and challenges of engaging often unreached segments of the community;
  • identifying and building engaged partnerships;
  • collections and community engagement;
  • engaged programming; and
  • outcome measurement.

About the Author

Mary Davis Fournier is Deputy Director of the American Library Association's Public Programs Office where she specializes in national partnerships, new project development, and programs support for public, school and academic libraries. An experienced arts administrator and cultural programmer, her past experiences include directing Chicago’s Printers Row Book Fair (now Lit Fest), programming for the Miami Book Fair International. She is active in Chicago’s nonprofit community and currently co-chairs the board of Chicago Women in Philanthropy. She holds a M.Ed. in Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a B.A. in History and English Literature from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Sarah Ostman is the communications manager in the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office, where she serves as editor of, a web resource for library professionals. Before joining the ALA and the library field in 2014, she spent nearly a decade as a newspaper reporter, editor, and freelance writer. Ostman has an MA in journalism from Columbia College in Chicago and a BA in sociology and theater from Smith College in Massachusetts.

Praise For…

"Valuable and insightful ... Library workers and potential community partners will find the book’s many examples of programming, adult services, and outreach useful for moving from dialogue to action.”
— Library Journal

"Readers ... will find the chapters inspiring and the examples of programs useful to their own work in a library or their research on diversity and inclusion in libraries. There is so much rich content for the reader: specific examples, guidelines, rubrics, and stories of success. Individual chapters, and as a collection, it has a lot to offer all of us working toward meaningful, sincere, and long-lasting engagement with the communities in our catchment areas.”
— International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion
Product Details
ISBN: 9780838947401
ISBN-10: 0838947409
Publisher: ALA Editions
Publication Date: December 7th, 2020
Pages: 176
Language: English