Welcome LIS 5937 – Libraries and Community Building

Welcome, Libraries and Community Building (LIS 5937) students from USF!

This is a special welcome to the students currently taking Kathleen de la Pena McCook’s course on community building and libraries. If you can believe it, Kathleen is using my book as her required text for the class, and this is such an honor for me because it is her book, A Place at the Table, that inspired me to pursue community building as library practice in the first place!

Kathleen has been in close communications as the class has started and then worked through the first few chapters of the text, and I’m just thrilled to have received some of the thoughtful comments that Kathleen has shared from her students. *Continuing* the dialog in our profession about community building was my primary ambition with this project, and I am so glad to see that happening in Kathleen’s class! Can I go so far as to say “mission accomplished”? I don’t think so. We need to keep the conversation going.

I would very much like to meet some of you (online or in person), and invite you to post questions, comments, or ideas on the blog here in the comments section, or send me an email to chrystie(at)itgirlconsulting(dot)com. I am thrilled to have you all engaged in the work and look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Adrienne Reeder, 12. September 2009, 16:21

    I am a student at USF currently in the Libraries and Community Building class. The text, Inside, Outside, and Online is the perfect compliment to our course. As I read, I find myself reflecting on libraries today and the change in society. Libraries are in a position where they need to compete with other entities. This text gives clear ideas of how to market the library and integrate the community. I applaud you for your efforts and this beautifully written book!
    Adrienne Reeder


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  3. Elizabeth Whitaker, 12. September 2009, 20:49

    I am truly inspired by your book. I will introduce your book at the next board meeting for the library. I am in a county with one library with a serious mold problem. A year ago, the library received $800,000 to remove the mold. However due to the location of the library, the mold is back. So the library requested another $800,000. Most people do not see the need to spend any more money. This community though will do anything for the children, so I know if they understood the impact a library can have for their children, they would work on a solution to the mold. The clubs and associations in the county all contribute and have fundraisers for students and the schools constantly. For example, the Rotary Club is starting a literacy program for Head Start, and they are looking for a location. The club never thought to use the library. Therefore, I am now a visiting member to assist with the implementation of the program. I know by putting your book in the right hands, this community will change their outlook.

  4. Patti Antoncich, 12. September 2009, 21:54

    Hi Chrystie~ I’m an MLIS student at USF and am currently taking 2 of Dr. McCook’s classes; Libraries & Community Building and Human Rights & Librarianship. I’ve been working for Dade County Public Libraries here in Miami for 6 years. During that time I’ve seen our services grow to meet the changing demands of our community by offering something for everyone, as most libraries now do. But I’ve never really given it much thought until taking this Community Building class, enhanced by your book. Most libraries have changed from the traditional place of hushed study to become vibrant community centers and welcoming “third places”. I always feel a sense of pride when a new patron, or one returning after years away, is amazed at what the library has to offer – whether its DVDs, tax help, tutoring, outreach, or a laptop- all for free. However, that look of surprise also proves that libraries and staff must continue to expand and promote services, and have “a place at the table” in order to continue community building.

  5. Deborah Cheek, 13. September 2009, 16:18

    Ms. Hill, I am also a student in Dr. McCook’s Libraries and Community Building course at USF. In a presentation to the Michigan Library Consortium you used the following quote from Barbara Fister:” libraries should be about the people they are for, not about the services we think they need.” I think this could be our motto for this course. Although, we are in the early stages of the class, we are beginning to look at the library in a whole new way. Instead of saying, we have this great collection of xxx books, how can we get our patrons to use them; we are saying, what does our community need and how can we use the resources we have to serve this need. I am excited to think about the possibilities that will unfold as a result of this course and your textbook.

  6. Allison Medeiros, 13. September 2009, 19:05

    Thank you for allowing those of us in Dr. McCook’s Libraries and Community Building class a chance to be involved on your blog in this way. I very much enjoy reading “Inside, Outside, and Online” as our textbook for this course and I know it will offer a great deal of instruction and motivation for us as we navigate the ways in which libraries can effectively build community.
    I feel that during these difficult economic times, the library is in the position to be more than just a place for free entertainment (although that is a wonderful draw for many). The July/August edition of Public Libraries was titled “The Economy Issue” and it illustrates the ways libraries are coping with lower budgets while experiencing higher volumes of users. The message from the President of the PLA, Sari Feldman, is called “Libraries the Key to Economic Recovery”. In her very first paragraph, she states that “public libraries are catalysts for building social capital and cornerstones of community sustainability…in the future we will play an important role in community reinvestment and recovery as well.” I thought this was a positive thought and an appropriate goal for librarianship.
    I am glad to see that the ideas which you and Dr. McCook have written about so well are also being shared and publicized by other library professionals. I think it is important that libraries take this moment in time to forge relationships with civic organizations and strengthen any partnerships which would enhance the lives of their users. With the new technologies, challenges, and demands facing people today, our communities need libraries more than ever.
    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts!

  7. Kathleen de la Peña McCook, 13. September 2009, 22:27

    I should note that this is an online class. We have students from Miami, Tampa, Mississippi, Altamonte Springs (FL), Cape Coral (FL),St. Petersburg, FL ,Washington, DC, and the Shenandoah Valley in NW Virginia,

  8. Kristina Knott, 14. September 2009, 17:58

    I am really enjoying Inside, Outside and Online. Like others who have posted, since beginning the text and along with our class discussions, the potential that libraries have for building and sustaining communities, in all types of political, social and economic climates inspires me so much. I find that I am happy and invigorated in a whole new way, to have chosen Library Science as my future.

  9. Abbi Shelton, 15. September 2009, 8:22

    I am also a student of Dr. McCook’s, and am so enjoying your text! It is concise, informative and a necessity in today’s library world. We have to learn to use the library not just as a house of information, but as an integral part of our community. I’m looking forward to reading more of your book and learning how to build up our library community!

  10. Diane Cary, 15. September 2009, 21:14

    Ms. Hill:
    Ditto on being in Dr. McCook’s current class. Today at work I received an e-mail, via the Library of Virginia listserv, from an attendee of the September Association of of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) annual conference in Gatlinburg, praising the programs, celebrating the 350+ attendance (when 150-200 expected), and applauding the networking opportunities for librarians and others in the “library world” to share similar challenge…and hopefully solutions. When perusing the list of presenters, noted that you were included. How wonderful!

  11. George Koehler, 15. September 2009, 21:53

    Hi, I’m also a student in Dr. McCook’s class. While we haven’t gotten very far into it yet, like my classmates I’m enjoying the text quite a bit. It’s encouraging that there are people in the library profession working to enhance the role that libraries play in addressing issues of community building and (especially in Dr. McCook’s case) social justice. In retrospect it should be an obvious focus, but I hadn’t encountered any discussion of these ideas until Dr. McCook’s courses. You’ve certainly made an impact on our class, so I’d say that your efforts to continue the dialogue about community building have been successful. Hopefully we can help to keep it going once we graduate.

  12. Chrystie, 16. September 2009, 0:40

    Hello…Everyone! Thank you so much for posting your comments to my blog. I had no idea that this was an online class. That’s great! I would love to try and connect with you all via a conference call and / or webinar session some time over the course of your studies. Would you be interested? If yes, I can show you the slide deck I’m currently working on to represent the ideas that are in the book – which I’ll be using for upcoming talks about the book. I would love to have your comments on the presentation, but also continue some of the things you’ve brought up here. Besides, it would be nice to meet you in real time.

    I am very glad to see that you’re all thinking about the future of libraries (and your work in the profession) from the community building perspective. Technology makes some of these things possible in ways that were not before, but policy definitely supports our use of technology to accomplish some of that vision.

    I did present at ARSL this weekend and *really* enjoyed the conference. I met a number of inspirational figures working in small and rural library communities … all of them so in touch with community needs and the best ways to meet them!

    Abbi, if you don’t mind, I want to add your comment to my positive reviews list! 🙂

    Allison, you’ve touched on exactly the direction that I hope to take this work. Recently, Cheryl Napsha (who is quoted as a respondent in the book) wrote to me in an email that there is a fresh new resource for community building through economic downturn. She encouraged me to take the blog in this direction and I had decided to do as much, but just have not had a chance to get to it yet with travel, day job, broken down car, etc. life! 🙂 Your comments press me further, and this was also confirmed by my experiences at ARSL this last weekend. If anyone has specific examples of libraries building communities around tough economic times for their patrons or regions — would love to hear or be connected to someone who would like to talk with me more about it.

    Elizabeth, anyone, please let me know how your board receives the book. Of course, they are also a great audience for the book but I have not yet heard from any board members or trustees who have exposure to these ideas just yet. I am going to show my ALA Editions contact these discussions, and see if I can get you a discount on providing the book to your board if you are interested – please just let me know.

    Thanks so much to all of you for your comments … please keep the conversation going! I think it’s so much easier to do that after graduation now (with all these tools) than it ever was before. Feel free to follow me on twitter/itgirl or find me on facebook/chrystiehill.

    Thanks again!

  13. Martin Rheaume, 16. September 2009, 8:31

    Hello Ms. Hill,

    Thank you for your thought provoking book. I’m a couple of chapters in, and so far it’s been an enjoyable read, which says a lot for a text book. My observations as a reference librarian, and my readings from your book lead me to believe the library is undergoing an identity crisis. I recognize it is not new for people to argue over the role of libraries in a society, but the ubiquity of the internet has intensified that debate as it has transformed library budgets, and fundamentally altered the activities people participate in while inside the library. One thing I’ve observed is the tension this can create between patrons who are using the library as a social hub, and those using the library for more traditional means. As one of the patrons quoted in the OCLC survey said, “stop making it feel like church” (page 17 of your book). But, for many people the sacred quiet of the library is it’s primary appeal.

    I think most of us will agree that we don’t want to choose one of these identities over the other. We want people to come to the library and engage each other, but we can also recognize that some people come to the library to participate in a dialogue with those who are long dead, whose words and thoughts only live on through the printed word, and they need a peaceful atmosphere in order to do this.

    One of our biggest challenges is to forge an identity that can harmonize these incongruous roles. Because, what I’m often witnessing now are libraries trying to do both, but doing neither well. I think it’s a matter of how the library utilizes its interior space. If libraries want to be multi-use facilities, they are going to have to organize their spaces in a way that facilitates multiple uses, because one some patrons want the library to be quiet, and some want to socialize freely and unselfconsciously, they cannot share the same space, and both accomplish their goal.

  14. Marta Jones, 16. September 2009, 11:35

    Hello there Ms. Hill!

    Thank you for including Jean Preer’s sentiments about libraries being both “simultaneously ignored and taken for granted”. Ten years ago I worked at a public library and saw social capital in action before I even knew there was a term for it. It was puzzling then, and it is galling now, that the work librarians do for their communities is often under-funded and not given the appropriate due, and dare I say it, respect.


    Marta Jones
    USF SLIS student
    LIS 5937

  15. Chrystie, 16. September 2009, 12:31

    Martin, thank you for your comments – I don’t explore library spaces as much as I had originally imagined when I set out to write this book, but I agree that “inside” the library, space planning to accommodate the library’s many functions is key. In the deliver chapter I broach the topic of user-centered design; a library in PA has done some interesting design work from this perspective. I believe it’s possible to accomplish both. Even my very small neighborhood branch has a “quiet zone” and a boisterous entry lobby and main reference area – catering to both of the needs that you describe.

    Marta, I believe that it’s ultimately our services that should speak for themselves; when they are relevant to the community served, the funding will be there. Often this is due to the library director’s work outside of the library…and only in part due to our materials or collections. Cynthia Fuerst’s story (in the last chapter) is testament to how even a very economically depressed community can find its way to big support for a library that really makes a difference in their community – ultimately supporting economic development “outside” the library.

  16. Patti Antoncich, 16. September 2009, 22:47

    “If anyone has specific examples of libraries building communities around tough economic times for their patrons or regions — would love to hear or be connected to someone who would like to talk with me more about it. ”
    Hello again Chrystie~ The Miami-Dade Co. Lib. Syst. has been offering classes such as: Intro. to the internet and to MS Word, (in both English & Spanish), and resume & job search workshops. Also, in conjunction with Dade Co. schools, we offer free tutoring for K-12 and ESOL for adults. Two book mobiles offer services to more remote areas as well to nursing homes and other such facilities. And our Civic Center kiosk, (“the world’s first library to be built on an elevated transit station”) services metrorail commuters. These are just a few specific examples, but that fact that libraries offer a variety of services and materials, and always for free helps in tough (and even in not-so-tough) economic times 😀

  17. jo Averill-Snell, 19. September 2009, 13:48

    Like the other commenters from Dr. McCook’s class, I’m finding your book highly useful. As well as using it in class and for professional development in my own library job, I’ve recommended it to the officers of the Friends of the Library chapter I belong to for my neighborhood public library. I hope your ideas will give us positive direction in our efforts to promote the library. I’ve found the interviews and stories you’ve interspersed through the text to be very helpful and a great bridge between the theoretical and the concrete.

  18. Christine E. Culp, 25. September 2009, 8:57

    Chrystie, I am really enjoying your book in Dr. McCooks class on Community and Library. It is very inspiring. The Bowling alley used to be a wonderful place for community groups to gather and socialize. Sadly, I don’t remember the last time I was in one. We cannot let these wonderful community opportunities fall by the wayside, Drive in Movies, Bowling Alley’s, Local Cafes. There seems to be a trend to re-energize these traditions of gathering places. Libraries can be in the forfront of this trend. I especially like your examples of how libraries are reaching out to multi-cultural groups and pin pointing focus on how to increase attendance for teens and different populations of library patrons to better serve diverse needs. I will enjoy taking this journey with you and your book. It has made me much more aware of what programs and services my local libraries in Orlando offer to the public.
    Christine Culp

  19. Joy Shepherd, 27. September 2009, 20:09

    I’ve really been enjoying your book. I can’t remember the last time I said that about a required textbook. What I like best about it are the real life examples you provide to illustrate each of your points. When I read them, I think to myself “I could do that” or “maybe that would work in my library with a little tweaking.” It’s exciting to see how often small changes can make a big difference. I’m the adult programming librarian at at a fairly large regional library, and I came into the job without a clue what a programming librarian does. As a result of reading the first few chapters in your book and some of the other things we’re reading and discussing in class, I realize how important it is just to talk to people — both inside and outside the library — to find out what they want and need, so I can better plan programs that meet the needs of hte community. It seems pretty basic, but it’s something I haven’t done nearly enough of. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Joy Shepherd

  20. Chrystie, 30. September 2009, 0:08

    Jo, where is your friends group? I’d like to know more about your library – will ask ALA editions about a coupon or discount for your group as well!

    Chrystine, Joy, thank you! I really appreciate the comments. It actually made my day yesterday (and I read your comments to my sister) when I learned that you were thinking more about how to engage the people in the library about what their needs are. This is absolutely essential to ensuring that our services are relevant to the people we aim to serve. I’ll be very interested to hear if new program ideas or changes come out of some of your new conversations. Please keep me posted.

    Thanks again for all your comments. I love hearing from you.

  21. Christine Culp, 28. October 2009, 18:44

    Dear Chrystie, We just read the chapter “Sustain” in your text for our class on Community Building with Libraries. I found this chapter very inspirational. It sort of tied the whole class together for me. I loved the hands on ideas and community partnership examples you gave from real libraries around the country. It will certainly effect how I will look beyond just the library walls in bringing community involvement into program planning.

  22. job search, 5. November 2009, 14:32

    it’s really nice to realize that despite the epoch of the Internet there are people who are willing to work in libraries and the ones who are happy to go there.

  23. Alechia Dow, 26. November 2009, 12:39

    Dear Chrystie Hill,
    In Dr. McCook’s Community Building class, your book has been one of the greatest resources in understanding community building by libraries. I’ve used it not only for Dr. McCook’s class, but also for proposals for the ALA, and research papers. It is so comprehensive, and elemental in understanding what the library can do in and for the community. The examples you use throughout your book of librarians and libraries defying the odds and making things work is so inspiring.
    I’m a library school student in the process of applying to PhD programs. I have so much to learn about the different areas of impact the library makes, and your book along with Dr. McCook’s class gave me a better idea as to assessing the community and their needs. I’m not there yet, but I feel like I’m on my way. Your book is definitely coming along for the ride!

    Thank you!!!