University of Wisconsin–Madison

Lead the Way: Libraries at the Heart of Community Engagement

Expand the possibilities of community engagement at your library


Attend the inaugural Lead the Way: Libraries at the Heart of Community Engagement conference. Wherever your library is on its community engagement journey, you will learn how to plan new engagement efforts or view existing initiatives with fresh perspective. Keep the library at the heart of your community by leading, engaging, and adapting with the ideas and skills featured at the conference.

April 20-21, 2020 | Madison, WI

Registration will open Dec 1. Please sign up for the conference email list.

Mary Davis Fournier

Keynote Address

Not-so-secret Agents of Change: Library Workers Leading the Way in Community Engagement

Like clandestine superheroes, library workers across the country are taking their work out into the community to foster change. By mobilizing coalitions to tackle important local issues; seeking out and listening to often-unheard voices; and quietly subverting the status quo of what a library can and should do, library workers are improving communities and improving lives – and that’s just the beginning. How can even more library staff learn from existing community engagement work and build upon the momentum? As director of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), a national American Library Association initiative that creates and shares free community engagement and dialogue resources and training, Mary Davis Fournier has supported and celebrated this transformational shift in libraries. In her 25 years of leadership work with libraries and literary organizations, Fournier has spearheaded dozens of groundbreaking projects that have paved the way for innovation in the field, including Libraries Transforming Communities, the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA), Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion, and the first “One Book” resource, Planning Your Community-Wide Read. She is currently working on a book, Empowering Communities: The Library and Community Engagement, which will be published in 2020 by ALA Editions.


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Questions? Contact Anna Palmer or Meredith Lowe

Call for Proposals has closed – The conference schedule will be posted in November

Do you have ideas to share about engaging your community? Lead the Way: Libraries at the Heart of Community Engagement is an ideal venue to share your exciting projects and practices!  Librarians and staff from all types of libraries are invited to attend and present. The program committee will accept proposals until September 6, 2019.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • community engagement for beginners
  • how to be an engaged leader
  • service outside the library
  • making connections & partnerships within the community
  • community engagement and strategic planning
  • library as a lead community engagement institution
  • community engagement as library advocacy
  • services focused on diversity and inclusion
  • community engagement related to all forms of accessibility
  • teaching as a form of engagement
  • leveraging technology to enhance engagement
  • community engagement and programing re-boots
  • using community data to inform decision making
  • how to fund community engagement projects
  • administrative strategies to foster community engagement


Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Statement

The Program Committee encourages presenters representing a variety of personal and professional backgrounds, perspectives, and voices. We aim for conference presenters to be as diverse as the communities we serve. Submissions are welcome from anyone who is interested in presenting, including students, new professionals, first-time presenters, and representatives of allied professions.  


Proposal Evaluation

The committee will evaluate all of the submissions as individual entries, and how they fit within the balance of conference content as a whole. The Program Committee will evaluate all proposals submitted by the deadline using the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the proposal, particularly having well-developed content and sufficient speakers to address all relevant aspects of the topic;
  • Originality and relevance of the proposed topic;
  • Uniqueness of content in relation to other conference presentations;
  • A range of speaker experiences and representations


How to submit a proposal

Please submit a 200-250 word description of your proposed session to Anna Palmer,, by September 6, 2019. Sessions at the conference will be one hour.  Please include an additional sentence or two about how this proposal aligns with our diversity, inclusion and equity statement outlined above. Note that the proposal will not be the finalized description for the conference program; the committee will contact selected speakers for a final draft. Panel presentations are accepted.

All selected proposals will receive one complimentary conference registration, which may be divided however the presenters of that session choose.