Customer Experience, Innovative Services, Leadership, Libraries, Professional Speaking

Reflections from my community engagement panel at ALA 2019

Last weekend, I attended the 2019 American Library Association Conference in Washington, DC. It was a great conference and a wonderful opportunity to connect with new and familiar professionals who work in the library industry.

On Saturday, June 22, I presented as part of a Panel Discussion called “Community Engagement as a Mindset,” hosted by OCLC. I was joined by Pam Sandlian Smith, Director, Anythink Libraries and Mary Lou Carolan, Assistant Director, Newburgh Free Library. With such esteemed colleagues, I knew it would be a great conversation, and it was! To quote the event description: “Community needs shift fast. To stay relevant and have the most impact on people’s lives, public libraries have to pivot just as fast.”

Here were some of my favorite quotes from our discussion:

People always told me, “the Library is the heart of the community, but I disagree. I think the community is the heart of the Library.” – Mary Lou Carolan

You not only need to be at the table [for important community conversations], you need to set the table.” – Pam Sandlian Smith

When Library staff express reluctance about going outside the library, networking,  or participating in community events, we need to ask ourselves, “What the worst that could happen?” We might feel uncomfortable or not know what to say? Whereas if we ask ourselves, “What’s the worst that could happen if we don’t go out and participate?” The answer is much more dire: we run the risk of being irrelevant. – Me

I enjoyed participating in this energizing conversation with fellow passionate public library leaders who are redefining community engagement as a mindset—with customers at the center, inspiring every aspect of the library.


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