The Role of Public Libraries in Engage Citizens in Smart, Inclusive and Connected Communities: A Current Practices Report

Shannon Mersand, Mila Gascó-Hernández, Xiaoyi Zhao, J. Ramon Gil-Garcia, G. Brian Burke, Megan Sutherland, Miguel Figueroa (Director, Center for the Future of Libraries at the American Library Association)
Oct. 31, 2018


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This report intends to shed light on some of the best practices that are already in place in public libraries throughout the United States that show how public libraries can further their roles as anchor institutions in smart community initiatives.

girl at library uses smart device seated at desk with pen in hand

This collection of innovations provides ideas for how libraries, communities and governments can work together as they imagine and implement smart initiatives in their communities, taking advantage of the library’s existing role as a community anchor. The report classifies the practices into five dimensions: infrastructure, technology, programs and services, partnerships, and citizen engagement.

Further, given the different levels of innovation encountered, practices are also identified as building blocks (basic infrastructure, programs and services that are essential for libraries to engage citizens and go beyond the traditional role of libraries), good practices (practices that represent what libraries are doing that go beyond the basic building blocks and services to engage community members in using the library and its resources), and unique practices (programs, services and features that have potential to serve as a clear link between the library and smart community initiatives).

In addition, the report lists integrative practices; that is, libraries that combine the areas of infrastructure, technology, programs and services, and/or partnerships to form innovative programs and services to engage citizens, boosting the potential of the library to play a catalyst role in a smart community.

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