I’ve been reading Putnam’s “Better Together” and he’s got me thinking. Our book proposal outlined a basic process for building community through libraries. The process wasn’t anything magical. Steven and I came up with it based on our initial research along with observed experiences of the libraries we work with. We sent it off to ALA and they liked it. From what we hear, they liked it a lot.

Now the idea is to talk to as many libraries as possible as we move through the writing. Put our process to the test and see what bears out. But … I’m sitting here with this process and I already can’t help but wonder: what are we missing? Is the process itself going to keep us from new discoveries?

Coming up with any type of community building process or framework is bound to have flaws or be incomplete in some way. The alternative is just to tell the stories. Stop trying to systematize something that’s really organic and maybe comes from experience, or maybe even magic. Maybe we should just tell the stories of libraries that are connected to and thriving in their communities … just put them down and see if any insights emerge.

I guess I’m a little bit stuck. Is it best to stick with the stories – or to a system? Or something in between?


  1. Laura, 7. March 2006, 17:36

    Well, I for one would rather read stories. As you both have noted, communities are multi-faceted. I can’t imagine writing a manual A System for community-building in any community, for any library. But a book of a lot of stories about how different libraries in different places have done so for their communities (and communities within communities) would be a wonderful resource–a sort of library-community version of Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette books. . .

  2. Chrystie, 7. March 2006, 18:48

    Very helpful. Thanks Laura. Maybe the way to go is to build stories out of each on of the chapters – pulling out the community building themes that we all can draw on in that way.

    Would love to hear other preferences.

  3. Kathleen de la Pena McCook, 19. March 2006, 18:54

    Community building can also be enhanced by understanding principles of community organizing. COMM-ORG has been a very helpful group as I have studied how libraries can build communities.
    COMM-ORG links academics and activists, and theory and practice, toward the goal of improving community organizing and its related crafts.

  4. Chrystie, 22. March 2006, 23:58

    Thanks Kathleen! Very helpful. I’ll take a closer look.