Enabling Smart, Inclusive, and Connected Communities: The Role of Public Libraries


Project started on Oct. 26, 2017 (Still Active)

The role of public libraries in engaging citizens in smart, inclusive and connected communities - A current practices report - Full Text

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Smart city strategies can improve government services and the quality of life for citizens. 

These strategies have started to receive increased federal funding. 

Often industry- and government-driven, smart city innovations have not really focused on community needs nor all-inclusive answers that can benefit from smart technologies and services. 

Public libraries have been largely left out of the ongoing dialogue about smart cities. 

Public libraries are digital, knowledge and creative infrastructure for smart cities. Libraries can play a critical role in involving the community and addressing its needs.

This project - submitted by CTG UAlbany in partnership with the American Library Association (ALA)’s Center for the Future of Libraries - aims at better understanding how public libraries can advance their role as community anchors in smart city initiatives by contributing to the community’s understanding of and participation in such initiatives. 

The project addresses two questions:

  1. To what extent do public libraries, building on their expertise, knowledge, and background, contribute to communities’ understanding of and participation in smart city initiatives?
  2. What are the existing and potential benefits, costs, risks, challenges, and unintended consequences for public libraries increasing their involvement in their communities’ smart city initiatives?

To address these two research questions over the next three years we plan to do:

  • Literature and Current Practices Review
  • Case Studies
  • National Survey
  • Report and Toolkit Development
  • Dissemination of Results and Resources

The intended outcomes for public libraries, local governments, and researchers include: 

  1. increasing and sustaining relationships and collaborations between libraries and other organizations, such as city governments and community organizations
  2. designing and developing two new and replicable resources to guide libraries willing to advance their role as community anchors in smart cities and to provide libraries with numerous resources and ideas for new programs and services contextualized to community issues/interests - the Opportunity Agenda and Roadmap Report; the Smart Libraries Toolbox
  3. enhancing the relationships between researchers and practitioners by communicating research findings in different events and ways that will lead to improvements in library services.

This research is supported by the expertise of an Advisory Board which will provide strategic advice for multiple stages and activities.

Press Releases & News Stories

Publications & Results

Public Libraries &
Smart Communities
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Related Websites

Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities


CTG UAlbany is partnering with the American Library Association’s (ALA) Center for the Future of Libraries.

Through this partnership, Center Director Miguel Figueroa will serve as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on the project’s research team.

To learn more about the ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries, please visit www.ala.org/libraryofthefuture.

Advisory Board

  • Ms. Dionne Baux, Director of Urban Programs, Main Street America.

  • Dr. John Bertot, Professor and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs of the College of Information Studies at University of Maryland.

  • Dr. Norman Jacknis, President of the New York Metropolitan Library Council, Senior Fellow at the Intelligent Community Forum, Government Fellow at CTG UAlbany, Faculty at Columbia University.

  • Mr. Nigel Jacob, Founder and Co-Chair for the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston, MA.

  • Ms. Mary Soucie, North Dakota State Librarian, Board of Directors of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.

Funding Sources

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums.

Their mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. IMLS grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.

To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.