It Takes a Community to Create a Library

Kenneth William Williment


Over the course of four years, Working Together Community Development Librarians in Vancouver, Regina, Toronto and Halifax worked in diverse urban neighbourhoods and with diverse communities, traditionally considered marginalized or socially excluded. This practitioner-community based project allowed community voice to drive the projects process, not librarian generated beliefs, literature or other professional discourse. Community members identified barriers which impacted their ability to enter and use public libraries, and expressed that public libraries were not playing an important role addressing their daily needs. Socially excluded community members stay away from public libraries because traditional library service planning and delivery is based upon middle class values and worldviews. In response, based upon long-term work in diverse and socially excluded communities, the Working Together Project conceptualized and reviewed the traditional library service planning model and developed a new community based service model: the Community-Led Service Planning Model. Community-led service planning builds upon the traditional library service planning model and provides a new method that brings library staff together with community members in an effort to identify and meet community needs. Socially excluded community members are involved in each step of the community-led service development process, from needs assessment to evaluation. This non-prescriptive model is flexible and can be applied in all library settings, by all librarians, and to all program and service development. This paper, a synopsis of a 2008 CLA conference presentation, presents weaknesses associated with only using the traditional service model and provides examples, from each of the four sites, of the benefits of using the newly developed service model. It establishes that the Community-Led Service Planning Model provides libraries with a sustainable approach to working with socially excluded community members.

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Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research (ISSN: 1911-9593)