Community Engagement and Academic Libraries

Steven J. Bell is the Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University. He’ll present the session “3 C’s for Leading Community Engagement Initiatives in Academic Libraries” on May 4, 3:25 p.m. EDT. His guest blog post follows.

Academic libraries serve two communities. Our traditional community is the internal one: students, faculty, staff and alumni. There’s also an external community that can benefit from the resources and services academic libraries offer. That community is composed of the neighbors who live in the areas surrounding our campus borders. It’s also part of the tradition of higher education institutions to put up walls, real or intangible, to set itself apart from the external community. Sometimes referred to as the "town-gown conflict,” this relationship is characterized by a tension that pits colleges and universities against their neighbors as adversaries fighting for land and other resources. In the 21st century, enlightened institutions of higher education realize that their survival and future goes hand in hand with that of their neighbors. Those institutions that fail to be an integral part of improving the quality of life in the external community may find their own quality is diminished in the long run.

In my Exchange session, “3Cs for Leading Community Engagement Initiatives in Academic Libraries,” I'll share what I believe are some essential qualities needed by academic librarians to help their institutions succeed in their mission to change the narrative on town-gown relationships from one of conflict to cooperation. Community engagement is perhaps more critical than ever for academic librarians as their institutions strive to do better, and expect the library to be welcoming to and of service to external community members.

Academic libraries can offer leadership by engaging with community programs. I'll share examples primarily from my own institution. What example(s) can you provide from your institution? How are you engaging with your local community? Access to technology? Collaboration with a local school? Allowing access to library databases? There are any number of possibilities. You can share your example by leaving a reply to this post (login required). Join me on Monday, May 4 at 3:25 p.m. EDT to hear more about the “3Cs for Leading Community Engagement Initiatives” at your academic library.

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