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Community Engagement: Redefining the Library as Town Square

Originally published May 7, 2019 in OCLC’s Next blog, written by Pam Sandlian Smith, Director, Anythink Libraries.

Libraries are evolving, leaning outside of our walls, connecting with our communities in new and powerful ways. Defining our “why” requires understanding how to shift our focus from books to people. Our purpose is to support people and their quality of life. While there may be many definitions, community engagement isn’t just about awareness, marketing, and sending staff out into the community. Community is at the center of everything. At Anythink, the public library system for Adams County, Colorado, it is at the heart of everything we do.

Like many libraries, our recent strategic planning research included a purposeful listening tour. We found that our community sees the library as its center, its connector. They asked for the library to become even more focused on creating community. As a result, we have adopted the concept of library as town square.

For me, this brings to mind an Italian piazza—a place where everyone gathers on their own terms. Sometimes people simply want to sit quietly watching the comings and goings. Sometimes they want to be with a friend or family members, learning together or listening to music or a book talk. Sometimes they want to engage in a conversation with a stranger or learn from an expert or share their expertise.

As we continue to develop this concept of town square, below are a few examples of how it is working for our team.

Hire happy people

At Anythink, we employ a hospitality model. We define hospitality as knowing someone is on your side. We hire our team carefully with an eye toward people who are happy, generous, and kind. To be successful in libraries today, you must love people, and be open to developing relationships and being a member of a team. You must be curious and someone who is always learning. An intuitive awareness of how people are feeling translates to a sense of empathy. Of course, you must also love ideas, but you must love people more. Our work is about connecting people with ideas—and staff are our catalysts and connectors.

Ask the right questions

It isn’t about the library. It is about the citizens and their community. When we worked on our strategic plan, we asked people to design their dream neighborhood. It inevitably looked like a Disney main street, complete with a central space for gathering, a coffee shop, a park, cafes and wine bars, a library, a bank, a school, a town hall, a garden. People seek the center, the gathering spaces where they can connect. They want their children to have opportunity, to be successful, have a good education and career. Seniors want continuing education and culture.

Asking the right questions leads us to a deeper understanding of the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the community. We asked what they loved about our community and what is missing. We asked how the library could support the success of their family and their community. The results of these rich conversations are distilled into the 2018–2022 Anythink Strategic Plan. Our vision is to contribute to our community being healthy, happy, safe, and smart.

Be the place where connections happen

Our community asked for the library to be the connector. Anythink is trusted to provide opportunities for people to gather, to have honest communication on tough topics. Anythink is trusted because we listen and design programs that reflect the community’s needs. For example, a digital photography project has turned into a local digital photography club that has hosted exhibits at the library. The participant becomes the expert.

Recently, we hosted Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering. Parker focuses on gatherings that make it safe for people to be authentic and vulnerable. Attendees felt safe enough to discuss personal information with strangers, and we all began to bond as people who cared for each other.

Another program launched last year is Breaking Bread, which connects people and cultures through food. The evening was quite simple: bread/bakers/hosts from five different cultures. Each presenter talked about the bread of their culture, how it developed, what it meant to their families, the importance of sharing bread, etc. Maria Mayo, our adult guide, described it as “cultural speed-dating.” Participants shared their own stories and memories, connecting with strangers around something as simple as a meal.

Reading and books are the historical cornerstones of libraries. Through reading, people become literate about our world and develop a sense of empathy and connection with people who have different life experiences. Community engagement is a visceral extension of this literacy. Creating connections and empathy, creating that space where people are safe to connect with ideas and their neighbors, is at the heart of the library’s mission.”

Posted on: June 26, 2019, 6:29 am Category: Uncategorized



Read the post but here’s the webliography:

“A few links to librarian initiatives in this space


IFLA, IFLA Statement on Fake News

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Truth Integrity Knowledge


Barclay, D. A. (2017). The challenge facing libraries in an era of fake news. The Conversation.

Farkas, M. (2018). Beyond Fake News: Determining what sources to trust. American Libraries.

Rose-Wiles, L. (2018). Reflections on Fake News, Librarians, and Undergraduate Research. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3), 200-204. doi:

Sullivan, M. C. (2018). Why librarians can’t fight fake news. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science.


Kristen Arnett (Literary Hub), How Librarians Survive on the Frontlines of Fake News

Library Insights blog (Taylor & Francis), Librarians and Fake News: “Trust me, I’m a Librarian!”

Samira Lazarovic (Goethe Institut), Media competence versus manipulation: What can libraries do against fake news?

Educational Institutions

USC Marshall School of Library Science, Librarians Know the Truth About Fake News

Posted on: June 26, 2019, 6:23 am Category: Uncategorized

Building Your KM Nest—5 More Strategies for Special Librarians

My latest posts for the Lucidea Think Clearly blog:

Building Your KM Nest—5 More Strategies for Special Librarians

Part 1:

Part 2:


Posted on: June 25, 2019, 1:56 pm Category: Uncategorized

Amazon Launches Prime Reading in Canada

Amazon Launches Prime Reading in Canada

Amazon Launches Prime Reading in Canada

“Initially launched in 2016, Prime Reading is a perk of an Amazon Prime subscription that gives you access to a limited selection of content. The service launched in China in April 2018 and then the UKAustria, GermanyFranceSpain, and Italy that summer, and now Amazon is launching Prime Reading in Canada.

Amazon announced on Friday that Canadian Prime members can now enjoy reading from a rotating selection of books, comics, and more – at no additional cost.

Prime Reading features include:

  • Hundreds of popular Kindle books: Enjoy a diverse selection of titles, including bestsellers Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and over 90 Lonely Planet guides, as well as favourites from Canadian authors like Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen and Room by Emma Donoghue, and titles from Thomas King.
  • Award-winning comics: Dive into popular comics like Star WarsBatman Vol 1: I am GothamCaptain Marvel Vol 1 and Black Panther.

The service is available through the Kindle apps for iOS and Android, the Kindle, and the Kindle Fire Android tablet.”


Posted on: June 25, 2019, 6:40 am Category: Uncategorized

2 advocacy fallacies

2 advocacy fallacies

“2nd Rule of Advocacy: Build relationships so others will advocate for you. One parent telling a school board how important he thinks the library program is to his child is more powerful than a dozen studies. One teacher willing to tell the principal that library services have helped her class be more successful secures library funding better than any mandate. One community group that works with school libraries to build information literacy skills is more effective than any set of national standards. We need to make sure we build the kind of relationships with parents, teachers and the community that are strong enough that members of these groups will speak on our behalf when needed. That takes a communication plan that, as Jennifer Stanbro reminds us, has “more positive things to say about what is happening in the library than negative. … People want to invest in things that are going well.” Jennifer also suggests: “Schedule regular program reviews and involve anyone who will participate, even skeptics. Make sure as many people as possible feel like they are partially responsible for the success of the program. If the library is everyone’s baby, no one will want to throw it out.” Rules of Advocacy Head for the Edge, LMC, March/April 2012″

Posted on: June 25, 2019, 6:20 am Category: Uncategorized

How to See Libraries’ Special Collections

How to See Libraries’ Special Collections

Posted on: June 25, 2019, 6:19 am Category: Uncategorized

Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) Releases Updated Canadian Author Addendum and New Author Rights Guide

Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) Releases Updated Canadian Author Addendum and New Author Rights Guide

“From CARL:

CARL is pleased to announce the release of three resources supporting awareness of authors’ rights and ways to retain key rights during the publication process.

The revised Canadian Author Addendum to Publication Agreement is a tool that can be used by authors to negotiate with publishers for the right to retain important rights, such as the ability to share and reuse their work – including the ability to make their work available to all via an open access repository. The accompanying CARL Guide to Using the Canadian Author Addendum provides practical straightforward guidance on how to use the addendum.

The CARL Guide to Author Rights seeks to situate use of the addendum within the broader context of copyright and ownership of scholarly works, including how rights retention can be taken into consideration at each stage of the publication lifecycle. This guide may assist both authors and librarians in knowing when and how to use the addendum as well as informing a broader understanding of author rights as they pertain to the creation and dissemination of academic research.

Please note that editable versions of these documents are also available.

Summary of Revisions to the Author Addendum
Based on feedback from member institutions and a recognition that authors increasingly need to retain more of their rights when publishing in order to comply with funder open access policies such as the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, and to ensure the widest distribution of their works, CARL undertook a detailed analysis and revision of the Canadian Author Addendum (originally adapted in 2007 from the SPARC Author Addendum to Publisher Agreement). The aim was to ensure it reflected the current Canadian copyright context.

The revised addendum includes two notable changes: inclusion of a clause acknowledging prior non-exclusive license grants to authors’ institutions or funders through open access policies (this clause has been part of the SPARC Author Addendum for several years), and expansion of the addendum in order for it to be used in both article and book chapter publishing agreement negotiations.

This guide is the results of the efforts of the Author Addendum and Author Rights Task Group: Lise Brin (CARL), Rosarie Coughlan (Queen’s University), Roger Gillis (Dalhousie University), Stephanie Savage (University of British Columbia), and Jennifer Zerkee (Simon Fraser University), under the guidance of CARL’s Advancing Research Committee. Many thanks to those in the Canadian and international library and scholarly communication community who offered valuable insight and feedback.”


Posted on: June 24, 2019, 6:27 am Category: Uncategorized