August 20, 2019

The Aspen Institute and Houston Public Library Issue New Report Detailing Strategies for Using Libraries to Build More Equitable, Resilient Communities

From The Aspen Institute:

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries and the Houston Public Library today released a report on how public and private stakeholders can more effectively use libraries to improve and enhance the lives of Houston’s residents.

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The report unveils a set of opportunities and recommendations for building library partnerships citywide that include participation in the advancement of key community priorities that include new family-centered initiatives, workforce readiness, and libraries serving as civic and information hubs.

The Grand Opportunity: Creating Community, Equity and Innovation with Houston Public Libraries is the report of the Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries, a partnership between the Aspen Institute and the Houston Public Library that brought together a group of library, government, nonprofit, academic and business leaders to explore and champion new thinking on the role of public libraries in the city of Houston. The Houston Dialogue took place two and a half months after Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, and the Dialogue report comes out this week as the city celebrates the reopening of the McGovern-Stella Link Library Branch that is one of seven libraries damaged by the flood and the first to reopen.

The report shows how Houston Public Library can work with community partners to expand information services as well as strengthen the uses of social media and the city’s media infrastructure. This also includes leveraging the physical infrastructure of the library across the city to provide important touchpoints for access and engagement to develop important literacies (i.e. workforce, health, etc.) and financial and civic empowerment. The report adds to the considerable body of work conducted by city agencies and local partners to create a roadmap to strengthen opportunity, equity and innovative problem-solving across Houston.

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The report highlights key insights from the conversation, which included the important role that public libraries can play in closing information and communication gaps among residents and addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and of Latino and immigrant communities in the city.

The report also calls for thinking creatively about community engagement, suggesting new and deeper partnerships to boost family literacy programs and across the city’s workforce continuum, with schools of social work at local colleges and universities, and with Houston Independent School District (HISD) and Houston media outlets.

With an emphasis on local empowerment and solutions, the report identifies six recommendations for libraries and their communities to work more effectively together, and three practical projects to get started on meaningful cross-sector collaboration. The six recommendations are:

  1. Leverage the Houston Public Library as a trusted source of information
  2. Use library infrastructure (virtually and physically) to provide important touchpoints for access and engagement to develop financial literacy and empowerment
  3. Use the Complete Communities Neighborhood Advisory groups as a model and partner for information, communication, and engagement
  4. Utilize smart collaborations in a portfolio approach
  5. Connect libraries to schools of social work
  6. Leverage the library as social infrastructure to foster greater connection among the city’s residents and student populations

The Houston Public Library plans to reconvene participants from the original Dialogue later this year to further strengthen relationships, and to explore and advance partnership and implementation built upon the framework developed at the Dialogue and reflected in the report.

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Direct to Full Text Report

Direct to Full Text Report
41 pages; PDF.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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