Libraries’ community development practices

In the library institution system, it was a long way from community initiatives, through libraries for special groups of readers, associations, societies, circles, commercial lending libraries and the social libraries run by the state, to citizen’s public libraries. Or, likewise, from the educating and entertaining people’s library through cultural libraries to today’s service provider library performing information tasks as well. Libraries have always been closely following society’s movements – that’s how they evolved into the “everyone’s library” of civic democracies.

The present-day challenges facing libraries stem from social and political changes, the needs of lifelong learning and changes in library audiences, as well as, and more than anything else, the digital revolution. Public libraries are under a dual pressure: on the one hand, they are hard-pressed towards catering for the needs of the information and/or knowledge society based on economic rationalism, and towards responding to changes stemming from IT revolution, while on the other hand, they retain their traditional functions in preserving and disseminating the cultural heritage and they are also playing an increasing role as a cultural and social centre.

The key directions of library socialisation were worked out by the Chicago Urban Libraries Council, among others, based on local libraries, community building practices:

  • Get outside the doors. Successful community/library relationships are proactive.
  • Find the leaders. A concerted effort to discover who’s who in a community makes all the difference. Reading local papers, asking long-time residents, attending civic events: all can be ways to find the people who are already at the centre of community activities and to work together with them.
  • Be creative about what the library can contribute. The obvious contributions aren’t the only contributions: you have to be willing to say “yes” and find a way to do it, if it is within your mission.
  • Discover and contribute to the unique capacities and conditions of the community. Cultural attributes, family requirements, the particular situations of neighbourhood youth all provide opportunities to make the library indispensable.
  • Support local businesses and institutions! Set up reciprocal relationships with them, advertise your services to them, spend discretionary funds locally. All of these activities will rebound to the library’s benefit.
  • Make the library building a community centre!

Create a community-minded culture among library staff and volunteers.  All library staff members should be encouraged to learn names, participate in events, build relationships and focus on community matters.


This article based on the following document:

Socialized Operation of Cultural Institutions : A methodological guide to community-based operation