Libraries Help Build Resilient Communities
Aspen Institute, Colorado State Library issue report on how public libraries can help build resilient communities
Call for increased participation of public libraries in statewide initiatives on learning and career readiness, information sharing and collaboration
DENVER – Today, the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries and the Colorado State Library released a report on how communities can more effectively use libraries to improve and enhance the lives of their residents.
The report unveils a set of opportunities and recommendations for building library partnerships statewide that include participation in new youth initiatives, workforce readiness and libraries serving as civic hubs.
Libraries: Building Community Resilience in Colorado is the report of the Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue on Public Libraries, a partnership between the Aspen Institute and the Colorado State Library that brought together a group of community and library leaders from throughout Colorado to explore and champion new thinking on the role of public libraries in Colorado.
The dialogue included a conversation with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the participation of Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes. The report adds to the considerable body of work conducted by state agencies and local partners to create a roadmap to resilience for Colorado communities.
“In 2016, Gov. Hickenlooper’s office did an in-depth project examining what it takes to create more resilient communities, whether urban, suburban, or rural. The Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue built on this effort and allowed us to explore opportunities for working more closely and more intentionally to leverage Colorado’s public libraries to build smarter, healthier communities,” said Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes, whose mother was a career librarian.
“The Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue examined the building blocks of resilient communities and their relationship to one another and to public libraries, drawing from initiatives developed by the Colorado Resiliency Working Group. The Colorado Dialogue provides an excellent model for other states to unlock the potential of their public libraries,” said Amy K. Garmer, director of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries and the author of the new report.
The report highlights key insights from the conversation with Gov. Hickenlooper, which included the important role that public libraries can play in fostering greater collegiality and productive civic engagement, as well as ways to increase the involvement of public libraries in new statewide initiatives for learning, career readiness and information sharing. The report also calls for a frank discussion to address inequities in library resources across the state and the need for Colorado libraries to increase their participation on commissions and task forces.
“The Colorado Dialogue identified how libraries play a supportive role in helping partner with the business, creative sectors, government and education to strengthen communities, foster literacy and support career changes for all. The dialogue demonstrated that it is incumbent on library leaders to play an active role in community growth actions,” said Eugene Hainer, Assistant Commissioner at the Colorado State Library.
With an emphasis on local empowerment and solutions, the report identifies 10 opportunities for libraries and their communities to work more effectively together. These are:
- Provide an array of learning resources and support for people to change career paths.
- Look at education and lifelong learning as one interrelated ecosystem.
- Bring a variety of community resources, including health and human services, into libraries to support students and their families and to close achievement and other gaps.
- Emphasize collective impact strategies in partnership with public and private sectors.
- Connect libraries with the creative community to build on the positive impact of Colorado’s creative community on local economies and community development.
- Build leadership networks with the private sector.
- Create a new office in the state to facilitate public-private/public-public partnerships (“P3 czar”).
- Establish libraries as a center for conversation and community connections.
- Attract, inspire and enable diverse talent in the library and the community.
- Change the culture and policies that inhibit innovation.
The Colorado State Library has started to advance and implement several of the recommendations in Libraries: Building Community Resilience in Colorado.