University of Wisconsin–Madison

Lead The Way Program, April 2020

Monday, April 20

The conference schedule is available at Sched.

8:45 – 9:00 Opening remarks

9:00-10:00 Opening Keynote:

Not-so-secret Agents of Change: Library Workers Leading the Way in Community Engagement                      
Mary Davis Fournier, American Library Association

(15 min break)

10:15 – 11:05: Concurrent Sessions

Session A1: Purposeful Communication in Community Engagement

Community engagement requires intentional internal and external communication that clarifies expectations and commitments throughout the relationship. This interactive presentation will introduce real-life scenarios of public library community engagement fails and mishaps, accompanied by lessons learned, follow-up action, and aspirations for individual and institutional communication practices.

The Appleton Public Library utilizes a community partnerships framework for planning and evaluating strategic efforts and responses to community requests. Presenters will provide examples from different departments to illustrate this institutional approach to community engagement and set the foundation for the discussion. They will detail the importance of purposeful communication in community engagement, highlighting strategies for working with different personalities and different types of organizations. Presenters and participants will collaboratively explore concrete strategies for effective communication across both long and short term partnerships. This presentation is appropriate for those new to community engagement as well as experienced collaborators and embedded librarians.


Ann Cooksey, Children’s Services Supervisor, Appleton Public Library (WI)
Adriana McCleer, Community Partnerships Supervisor, Appleton Public Library (WI)


Session A2: Engage for a Healthy Community

A recent Pew study found that health is the number two most searched for information online. Public libraries are on the frontlines of the health information needs of their communities. Come learn how to get started with community engagement for health. First, we will cover how to determine the health needs of your community. We will explore plans for approaching potential partners, project planning and implementation, funding sources, and ideas for community engagement. We will look at no-cost resources for evidence-based health information in multiple languages. Attendees will leave with at least one new thing that can do immediately to improve their health services in their communities. This session is interactive so bring a pen and your thinking caps and be prepared to participate!


Bobbi Newman, Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist, National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), Greater Midwest Region (GMR), University of Iowa


Session A3: Taking Care of Yourself is Taking Care of Your Community

When Annie Dillard wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing,” she was reminding us that we live our lives—our precious, miraculous, messy lives— everywhere we go, including the library. Libraries and the people within them are teeming with potential to deplete and also restore, to isolate and also connect, to distract and also remind us what matters most. In this talk, we will examine what is difficult and depleting about our work and look to what scholarly research and longstanding wisdom traditions say about how and why we must care for ourselves in order to care for others.


Beck Tench, PhD Candidate, University of Washington


Session A4: What You Can Do with Library Glue: Creating Community Bonds that Stick

No matter their size, all libraries have key things in common including the need for: strong leaders, community involvement, life-long learning, and a network of people working together as a team. The Elgin Public Library, while small and isolated, strives to build all these things by creating a community “glue” consisting of programming, outreach, long-range planning, and the implementation of key leadership ideas in its daily interactions with patrons and the public. This culture has made Elgin an award-winning library that is the center of its community in many ways. This interactive, PowerPoint presentation with question and answer will give real examples of programs, ideas, and leadership skills that can be easily implemented in order to make any library the “glue” in its community.


Lisa Leuck, Library Director, Elgin Public Library (IA) and founder of Read to Lead LLC.


(15 min break)

11:20 – 12:10: Concurrent Sessions

Session B1: Be at the Table: creating your own community conversation model

Effective community engagement starts with listening. While there are many great models out there – Longest Table, Harwood Institute, World Café – we wanted a format that would feel comfortable for both the staff and community of Woodlawn, a diverse urban/suburban area of Baltimore County. In 2018 Baltimore County Public Library’s Woodlawn Branch and Adult and Community Engagement Department collaborated to create a hybrid of existing tools that gave us the best way to listen. In October we held our first Be at the Table, an event where staff engaged with community members over a meal about their community aspirations, assets and concerns. The goal: listen to what the community needs and identify ways the library can help. Hear the process of how we created a hybrid of existing tools that gave us the best way to listen and allowed us to engage more effectively with our community.


Julie Brophy, Adult & Community Engagement Manager, Baltimore County Public Library
Kate Sigler, Woodlawn Branch Assistant Library Manager, Baltimore County Public Library


Session B2: It’s Our Hometown: Let’s Build It Together

Libraries play an integral part in the community they serve. Most of us are aware of that. However, how do we go about truly putting that into practice in our libraries? What can we do to let area residents know who we are and what we can contribute to the community beyond the books on our shelves? That’s where the Building Merrill Together Initiative enters into the fabric of a small community in north central Wisconsin.

The Building Merrill Together Initiative generated a community discussion series titled “Constructing the Future of Greater Merrill.” Since its inception, the Library has offered many presentations and panel discussions on rather contentious topics. Collaboration with other organizations allowed us to write for grants to help develop and support an organization that has precipitated from this initiative.

The presentation will include how the initiative came to be, what we have accomplished through the process, and, most importantly, what we have learned along the way.


Laurie A. Ollhoff, Assistant Library Director, T.B. Scott Free Library


Session B3: Swipe Left, Swipe Right: How to Pick the Perfect Partnership

The choreographer Twyla Tharp reminds us that the greatest collaborations are love stories. Find out how to choose and build long-lasting, healthy partnerships with diverse community stakeholders during this interactive workshop. Four promiscuous collaborators will explore how to choose great partners, sustain relationships, and create audacious opportunities allowing your library to thrive. Participants will leave having crafted a dating profile and identifying potential partners.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this session, participants will be able to…

      • Approach potential partners with confidence
      • Create relationships with diverse stakeholders
      • Build boundary-spanning programs and services


Erica Freudenberger, Outreach & Engagement Consultant, Southern Adirondack Library System (NY)
Amber Williams, Managing Librarian: Strategic Initiatives, Spokane County Library District (WA)
Cindy Fesemyer, Adult & Community Services Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction


Session B4: Putting the Community at the Center of Everything

Redwood City Public Library evolved from conducting community outreach to deeply engaging residents in development and implementation of services and overall community building. Community conversations used Harwood Institute’s “Turning Outward” methodology to identify five community aspirations — inclusion, equity, safety, awareness, and education. These became the focus of our Library Service Priorities, including new programs targeted to specific underserved populations: Social Service Office Hours, Human Library, and Library Takeover.

With each iteration of planning, we deepened our commitment to placing the community, rather than the Library, at the center of the process, providing opportunities for diverse residents to be heard, connect with each other and celebrate together. Through this authentic inclusive engagement, the Library has increased its role as a central trusted place for dialogue and learning within the City. Learn how we are thriving as a result of strategic decisions, critical partnerships, pilot projects, and lucky breaks!


Derek Wolfgram, Library Director, Redwood City Public Library (CA)
Susan Clark, Founder & Executive Director, Common Knowledge

(15 min break)

12:10 – 1:30: Lunch Break. A lunch at the Pyle Center ($20 fee) is an option when you register for the conference. You may also choose from any number of nearby restaurants on your own. Outside food is not allowed in the conference facility.

1:30 – 2:20: Concurrent Sessions

Session C1: Improving Community Engagement and Accessibility through Social Justice

Librarianship is overwhelmingly homogeneous (over 80% White and over 80% women) and White folks often lack experience in talking about race and other “difficult” topics. Many of us want to see libraries be better but wonder how we can make a difference when as individuals we are part of the majority. How can we change these systems to make them less unjust? How can we use reflection and reconsideration as an opportunity to improve our ability to engage with our communities? How can we identify and break down barriers to access to make library services not only available but welcoming to all potential patrons? We will talk about how to identify and confront our own bias and will look at ways to take action in a variety of aspects of library services including materials selection, readers’ advisory, cataloging and classification, operational policies, program planning, and other specific opportunities for change.


Anne Heidemann, Tribal Librarian, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Libraries


Session C2: Embracing Strategic Planning as a Community Engagement Tool

The importance of strategic planning is not new to libraries, but the manner in which we can connect with and elevate voices that are otherwise underheard continues to evolve. How can we effectively identify who should be a part of the process? How do we balance feedback received from different community stakeholders with the knowledge we have as library professionals? And how can we pull together what we learn into an actionable plan?

Rethinking the strategic planning process from a cumbersome and overwhelming task to an opportunity to connect with our community opens the possibilities to engage with those outside our immediate circles. This program will provide participants with insights and ideas to incorporate thoughtful community engagement into strategic planning processes that both diminishes the risk of planning within our own bubbles and also inspires new ideas.


Sarah Keister Armstrong, Principal/Owner, Sarah Keister Armstrong & Associates, LLC


Session C3: Facilitation Tools, Techniques, and Tips

Description: Placing the community at the center of how the library plans and operates is vital, whether it is engaging residents to learn about aspirations or developing a collaboration with community partners. To be most successful when engaging community members or partners, quality facilitation is required. In our program, we will share facilitator techniques and tools, including best practices for running effective meetings and holding conversations, that you can use to constructively manage both the process and people in different facilitation situations. In addition, we will share our on-the-ground facilitator tips developed from our organization’s experience providing facilitation for different needs and environments.


Andrea Coffin, Community Liaison and Service Specialist, WiLS (WI)
Bruce Smith, Community Liaison and Service Specialist, WiLS (WI)


Session C4: Creating a Culture of Contribution: A Fresh Look at Participatory Learning in Libraries

Join Alicia Hammond and Amy Holcomb for a workshop on participatory culture in libraries. Participatory experiences put the user in charge of their learning and provide the opportunity for meaningful community connections. Learn strategies to facilitate and scale programs and spaces for your patrons no matter your library’s size by leveraging trends to inspire your community to take ownership of library experiences. Be ready to share ideas and get hands-on with participatory activities.

At the end of this session, participants will:

      • Deconstruct traditional methods of programming relevant to their community.
      • Identify actions steps to start incorporating participatory elements.
      • Evaluate participatory experiences and their impact on the community.


Alicia Hammond, Community Engagement Manager, Forest Park Public Library (IL)
Amy Holcomb, Experiential Learning Supervisor, Skokie Public Library (IL)


(15 min break)

2:35 – 3:25: Concurrent Sessions

Session D1: When Having a Voice At the Table Isn’t Enough: Facilitating, Convening and Community Impact Goals

At the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, our Community Impact Goals are written as ambitious outward goals that address societal issues that we all must improve for the success of our citizenry. One librarian will share her journey from booklist-wielding Health Librarian sharing information to engaged Community Connections Librarian building trust and relationships. Once the library is invited to community tables as a trusted resource, what can we do to be effective agents of change? As goals align and relationships strengthen, reference librarians can embed in community work and local organizations through board service, committee work, leading, convening or facilitating meetings of coalitions. With trained staff, the library can bring facilitation skills along with information resources to these groups. Library staff can remain neutral on divisive topics, or convene deliberative conversations on the daunting issues that communities face. Learn how to take first steps in the journey toward engagement.


Lissa Staley, Community Connections Librarian, Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (KS)


Session D2: Cultural Literacy in Your Library: A Guide to Inclusive Programming

Join us to talk about our successful Cultural Literacy series and how you can implement it in your own library and connect with your community. Our monthly series consists of presentation speakers or a panel discussion, followed by a question and answer period or open discussion. Topics have included LGBTQ health services, disability awareness, deaf culture, mental illness, becoming a more informed voter, immigration, refugee crises, race relations in our community, and others. Our goal is to promote understanding of underrepresented populations and social issues by providing reliable information to our community in a safe space.

We will discuss how to discover topics relevant to your community and find and connect with appropriate speakers. There will also be advice on how to present topics that may be viewed as controversial, as well as preparing to defend your library’s position if backlash arises.


Jessica Bamford-Love and Laura Pagel, Cedar Falls Public Library (IA)


Session D3: PANEL – Spotlight on Wisconsin

Explore your community through Adventure Passes!

Libraries provide access to information for their communities. Let’s count the ways that has changed and grown over the years: from print books to books on CD to DVDs to programming and more! Come learn how Manitowoc Public Library and Manitowoc County Historical Society are partnering to re-imagine access again through Adventure Passes; a circulating pass which provides access to our area cultural institutions and historical museums!

Kristin Stoeger, Library Director, Manitowoc Public Library and Amy Meyer, Executive Director, Manitowoc County Historical Society

Sharing Resources: A Public Library and School District Partnership

Through their partnership with the School District of Milton, the Milton Public Library has access to technology that goes beyond the yearly budget, specifically technology that enhances programming in the library’s makerspace. In return, teachers and students have access to library professionals who are enthusiastic about programming and literacy. It’s a relationship that’s always building as both teachers, librarians, and administration think of ways to pull resources together to benefit Milton’s community members.

Ashlee Kunkel, Library Director/Teen Librarian, Milton Public Library (WI)
Jayme Anderson, Assistant Director/Children’s Librarian, Milton Public Library (WI)

Library Outside the Walls

If Libraries are to be the heart of the community, we need to be immersed in the community. We need to get out of the library and into the community to attend fairs and festivals, maybe even initiate a few programs of our own, like Kite Fests, Community Gardens, etc. We need to have a persistent and visible presence in the community so that it becomes evident that the library is committed to community engagement and betterment.

Annie Bahringer, Library Director, Hustisford Community Library (WI)


Session D4: Listen. Learn. Act. Repeat: Designing a Roadmap for Community Engagement

Are you confident that you understand your community’s needs? Join the Denver Public Library (DPL) Community Engagement Team for a session on designing a roadmap for successful community engagement. Presenters will discuss how to ask the right questions, create responsive programming, engage partners, garner staff buy-in, and engage “missing voices” in the community. Presenters will demonstrate how listening to and learning from your neighbors will benefit your library and your community.

Presentation Learning Outcomes:

      • Attendees can apply lessons learned from building an internal and external community engagement model within the DPL System
      • Attendees can ask questions and provide feedback to presenters to clarify or justify content and its applicability to community engagement activities at their institution
      • Attendees receive a customizable outline to develop their own community engagement plan


James Vallejos, Neighborhood Services Manager, Denver Public Library (CO)
Beth Warren, Manager, Resource Development & Community Partnerships, Denver Public Library (CO)


(15 min break)

3:40 – 4:30: Concurrent Sessions

Session E1: A Community Dialogue Framework for libraries to build partnerships, engage new audiences, and strengthen their role as safe places in the community

The National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute’s STAR Library Network (STAR Net) program, has developed a successful Community Dialogue Framework to assist libraries of any size in any community type to engage not just their current patrons, but the community as a whole. While similar to the Harwood “Reaching Out” model, this Framework is more informal, allowing venues to customize their actions based on their available time/funding/staffing, as well as the needs of the community as a whole. These Dialogues have been conducted at more than 100 libraries across the country. Outcomes include new mission statements, new funding sources, new (and lasting) partnerships, as well as cross-branch initiatives to be more welcoming and inclusive for minority and other underserved populations.

Participants in this session will learn more about this Framework, and brainstorm ideas to apply it to their daily practice. Talking to your community isn’t a brilliant new idea. It’s obvious, and we all know we should be doing it. But we need to make a commitment to have structured conversations that include the relevant stakeholders. We hope participants leave with this commitment in their mind.


Anne Holland, Community Engagement & Exhibits Manager, Space Science Institute (Boulder, CO)
Stephanie Vierow-Fields, Education Coordinator-Relationship Liaison, Space Science Institute (Boulder, CO)


Session E2: Serving the Public through Social Services in Libraries

Oak Park Public Library (IL) has used the Social Services Department to utilize a community engagement model to innovate service delivery in public libraries by forging strategic partnerships with community organizations. Oak Park Public Library has for the last three years housed the Social Services and Public Safety Department at its main branch. This is a growing trend in public libraries that have had to be innovative in its service delivery in one of the last truly public spaces. In 2016, Oak Park Public Library was among the first libraries in the country to hire a social worker. Later on that year, the Social Services Department was charged to manage the safety and security department after the overdose death of a patron. The program design utilizes strategic partnerships, training, community engagement, and mixed methodologies. Oak Park is surrounded by several communities that have disproportionate income, education levels, and populations, and the library serves various populations on a daily basis. The community has benefited from the decision to integrate social services and library services and continues to grow this model.


Stephen Jackson, Teen Services Coordinator, Oak Park Public Library (IL)


Session E3: Recovering Together: Libraries strengthening communities after disaster

The NorthNet Library System has 41 member libraries in California from north of San Francisco up to the Oregon border. Over the past five years, our region has experienced a dramatic increase in devastating wildfires, loss of 130 lives and billions of dollars in damages that displaced thousands of residents. Our region has also suffered earthquakes, dramatic mudslides and floods. In response, the NorthNet network has launched a collaborative project: “Recovering Together: How libraries strengthen their communities after a disaster.” We are collecting and comparing relevant experiences and lessons learned from staff, volunteers and community partners. The Recovering Together project is creating a platform to enhance exchange of recovery resources and each other’s best practices. We are reflecting individually and together about how and when our libraries have stepped into the role of a lead community engagement institution and what that suggests for future planning and community connections.


Danis Kreimeier, Director of Library Services & Community Outreach (recently retired), Napa County Library (CA)
Susan Stuart Clark, Executive Director, Common Knowledge, San Rafael, CA


Session E4: Building Equity Through Collective Impact Partnerships

StriveTogether is a national nonprofit that works to improve the lives of kids by coaching and connecting partners to close gaps by using local data, especially for children of color and low-income children. Strive Together initiatives have been created in 70 communities across the nation. Building Our Future Kenosha County is one of four Strive Together initiatives in the Wisconsin Partnership. Kenosha Public Library has established itself as a lead partner in Building Our Future by actively engaging at the Leadership Table, and in the Smart Beginnings and Early Grade Reading networks. As a result, KPL has modified its organizational structure, and aligned its youth and outreach programs and services with Building Our Future priorities.

This session will focus on the collective impact model of community change, the role of public libraries in building equity through out-of-school programming, and strategies for gaining recognition as a vital partner in community-wide initiatives.


Barbara Brattin, Director, Kenosha Public Library (WI)
Lynn Debilzen, Manager, Birth to Eight, Building Our Future Kenosha County (WI)

4:30 – 5:30: Conference Reception – Pyle Center, Lee Lounge (1st floor). Join us for hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

Tuesday, April 21

9:00 – 9:50: Concurrent Sessions

Session F1: How ‘Bout I Come To You?: Embracing the Agenda-less Meeting

In this team presentation, members of the Community Engagement Team (CET) at Madison Public Library’s Central Library introduce Madison Public Library’s overall community engagement strategy, and focus on a simple, scalable approach to community engagement: the informal, agenda-less conversation with individuals and organizations that help lay the foundation for future opportunities.  

Based on their experiences since the formation of the team in 2015, CET will share concrete examples of reach-outs, chats, and get-togethers that in some cases ended up sparking a collaborative idea for a program or a service, but in many cases, are more about connections than necessarily outputs. It is these connections that can pave the way for future collaborations, if and when it’s time for a partnership.


Laura Damon-Moore, Community Engagement Librarian, Madison Public Library – Central (WI)
Neeyati Shah, Community Engagement Librarian, Madison Public Library – Central (WI)


Session F2: All Hands On Deck: Steering the Ship Toward Library-Wide Outreach

Description: At the Downers Grove Public Library, outreach is a library-wide effort. In this presentation, we will discuss how, through pulling interest and expertise from all departments, we have encouraged and increased participation in outreach programming. Making outreach everyone’s job helps to increase internal visibility, knowledge, and participation in the opportunities and current strategies of community engagement.


Cindy Khatri, Public Relations Manager, Downers Grove Public Library (IL)
Erin Linsenmeyer, Children’s Librarian – Outreach Coordinator, Downers Grove Public Library (IL)


Session F3: Acting on Input: Delivering Community-Minded Library Service

There is so much to say “yes” to—from tech trends to popular programming—that it’s easy for libraries to act on impulse.  But the most responsive library services are developed around community input.  Input from city demographics provides needed data.  Equally important, input from focus groups provides the needed aspiration—and inspiration—to develop community-minded library services. 

State Library of Iowa consultants Bonnie McKewon and Becky Heil facilitate strategic planning with Iowa libraries using PLA’s Planning For Results model, which is predicated on gathering community opinion through focus groups.  Their experience shows how community-based planning elevates libraries as valued civic partners.

In this session, they’ll share their insight into effectively using focus groups, discuss preferences when using surveys, and touch on a business idea for gathering input—journey mapping. 

By acting on input rather than impulse, libraries become more purposefully engaged with their communities and deliver more community-minded services and programming.


Bonnie McKewon, NW-District Consultant, State Library of Iowa
Becky Heil, SE-District Consultant, State Library of Iowa


Session F4: PANEL – Program Spotlights

Talking about Racism: Library Programming to Address Community Needs

Following a racist incident in the area, the library developed programming using the Book-to-Action model to help address community concerns. Programming centered around Ijeoma Oluo’s “So You Want to Talk about Race” and featured family story time, a screening and discussion of “Get Out”, a facilitated book discussion, and a highly interactive discussion of racism through the YWCA’s Dialogue-to-Change experience. This session provides concrete strategies for engaging the community around difficult issues and having hard discussions.

Dr. Colleen Boff, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
Natalie Dielman, Way Public Library, Perrysburg, OH

Libraries and Climate Change

The climate crisis is no longer a fringe issue. As nonpartisan institutions, libraries have an uncommon opportunity to aid in climate change awareness, education, and action. Librarians at the Monroe County Public Library (IN) have been addressing this through extensive programming, strategic external partnerships, and a variety of in-house initiatives, many of which require minimal funding. A few of these actions have included creating a seed library, hosting a tree-planting day, and subscribing to a compost service. This presentation offers project ideas and practical suggestions for both improvements and getting started.

Morning Wilder, Community Engagement Librarian for Adult Audiences, Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington, IN

Thinking Outside the Library Box

We flipped our service model: bring library services to people where they are rather than expecting them to come to us.  Satellite “pop-up” libraries provide internet and more in rural, high-poverty areas; a library in the mall catches people on the go; a mobile programming vehicle takes library services to high-density housing developments and the homeless.  Thinking outside the box (and outside our library buildings) has engaged the underserved in our community.

Darcie Caswell, Youth Services Coordinator, Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Fredericksburg, VA


(15 min break)

10:05 – 10:55: Concurrent Sessions

Session G1: Wading into the Deep Pool of Community Engagement

Libraries are truly the heart of the community but taking the first steps toward community engagement can be a daunting experience. This presentation begins with the very first step in community engagement and guides you along our three- year journey. Figuring out community engagement doesn’t have to be intimidating once you have the template for Community Engagement 101.

This presentation will help your library staff understand not only your library community, but the community outside the library walls.  We will guide you through the process of surveys, community conversations and community interviews. We will discuss best ways to meet your school officials, elected officials, church, business and community leaders. You will learn how to identity trends and topics of importance in your community and the power of partnerships.


Colleen Cunningham and Cristen Darcus, Community Librarians, Westbank Community Library, Austin, TX


Session G2: From “Community-Centered Libraries” to “Catalyzing a Community-Led Future”: Living trainings and tools that strengthen library and community bonds.

In 2013 the Free Library of Philadelphia, which consists of 54 locations, began the process of creating clusters that would act as mini library systems to free up staff to better understand the aspirations of our communities. This step, as part of a five year strategic plan, created a path which lead us to hiring Community Organizers, reviewing and revising our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Community Centered Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian training and using “living tools” like community-led asset mapping.

In this presentation, Andrea Lemoins, Community Organizer, and Echo Phillips, Children’s Librarian, will present on how our institution is utilizing the Laura Bush Grant trainings to build upon a continuum of community engagement. Participants in this session will leave with a list of lessons learned and an introductory understanding of asset based community development


Andrea Lemoins, Community Organizer, The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation (PA)
Echo Phillips, Children’s Librarian, Free Library of Philadelphia (PA)


Session G3: Beyond the Building: Engaging the Refugee & Immigrant Community

At Milwaukee Public Library, engaging our patrons is an ongoing struggle. The growing refugee and immigrant population presents new challenges, such as a general distrust of government agencies, and a lack of familiarity with the American public library.  In response to the needs of our new residents, Milwaukee Public Library formed a committee dedicated to fostering a safe and welcoming environment, as well as recognizing and celebrating the refugee and immigrant community.  Our panel will explore how we built relationships with community organizations, and how to increase the presence of your library beyond the building.  You will hear examples of our successes and setbacks, and learn how to focus library programming, services, and resources.  We will discuss how Milwaukee Public Library works toward becoming a lead community engagement institution, thus fulfilling our mission to help people read, learn, and connect, then explore how these strategies can apply in your community.


Eric Johnson, Librarian III, Milwaukee Public Library (WI)
Nancy Bell, Library Reference Assistant, Milwaukee Public Library (WI)


Session G4: Strategically Engaging from the Bottom Up – Intentionally Putting Your Community First when Planning

Engaging with the community as part of the strategic planning process has many benefits that include gaining input from those in the community who may not be library users, involving other community leaders and organizations, strengthening the position of the library as a leader in the community and change agent, and ultimately helping align services to the needs and aspirations of the community.  While engaging with the community is an essential component to the strategic planning process, it can also be overwhelming.

In this session, we will share strategies around engaging communities for the purpose of strategic planning. We’ll discuss creating an engagement committee, what methods to use to engage, tips on getting people to show up, crafting the questions, and handling logistics. We will also provide an overview of different criteria that can be used to identify stakeholders in the community based on various methods of public. Attendees will gain experience in identifying stakeholders with a hands-on gallery walk activity.

Pamela Seabolt, Library Strategist, Midwest Collaborative for Library Services


(15 min break)

11:10 – 12:10: Closing Keynote Address:

Be Positive. Be Productive. Be Ready to Lead the Way!
Cheri Neal, Zion (IL) Township Supervisor, and Deborah Althoff Will, IMC Coordinator at Zion-Benton (IL) Township High School

1:30 – 4:30: Post-Conference Workshop

Improving Community Engagement through Approachable Research

Cost: $100.00 | Capacity: 30-40 participants

Libraries face the daunting task of accurately understanding the community they serve. What is essential, how does the community use services, and what could libraries do better? This workshop highlights three successful scenarios of user research any library can implement to help inform decision making and strategic planning.

Through examples and interactive activities, come away ready to implement:

  • Conducting a Community Survey – Gain vital information from users and non-users
  • Executing User Experience and Card Sorting Interviews – Understand how to create more accessible and inclusive products by learning how users interact
  • Researching an Environmental Scan – Use publicly available data like census and local government resources to get insights on how to meet the needs of the community

The workshop shares plans, successes, and failures to assist other libraries in researching their community with minimal budget and time. Supplemental materials provided.

About the Presenter:

Kiel Cross is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Palatine Public Library District. He is currently working on an M.S. in Communications from Purdue University and earned a B.A. in Communications Management from Judson University. Kiel recently was awarded Marketer of the Year 2019 by Library Journal for his work on a successful Library referendum. Kiel has been working for higher education schools and libraries for the last ten years. He has presented at the Wisconsin-Illinois Innovative Users Group regional meeting and Illinois Library Associations Fall Conference about community surveys and creating an inclusive library website. In his free time, Kiel likes to teach instructional classes throughout the Chicago-land area.