Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Public Libraries Civic Agents Creating Civic Agency?

Academic journal article Australasian Public Libraries and Information Services

Public Libraries Civic Agents Creating Civic Agency?

Article excerpt

There are few journals of public librarianship worldwide. One which has existed even longer than the 21 years of this journal, is the US Public library quarterly, the Haworth Press title now under the revitalizing editorship of Dr Glen Holt, formerly the director of the St Louis Public Library. It is a name which will be known to many Australian and New Zealand public librarians for his presentations in both countries and foundation work on public library valuation.

The scope and breadth of the content of Public library quarterly now warrants subscription consideration by any public library seriously concerned to keep abreast, and even in front of, public library trends and issues worldwide.

This is exemplified by a recent challenging and perceptive article in PLQ entitled 'Libraries as civic agents' by Taylor Willingham, a public engagement and change management consultant who teaches change management for the library school at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

In it she contends that in the US (and surely in Australia and New Zealand too)

 
   ... at a time when the public is frustrated with politics, problems 
   seen insurmountable, and there is little trust in many of our 
   public institutions libraries can be the leaders in revitalizing 
   our democratic practices. 
 
   A number of libraries are establishing their relevance and creating 
   public value by reclaiming and expanding their civic mission: they 
   are pursuing an active role in community building directly engaging 
   in partnerships with others to solve community problems ... They 
   are civic agents creating civic agencies. 

Willingham provides a short definition of civic agency 'as the capacity of human communities to act cooperatively and collectively on common problems and challenges' and asserts that this requires a new way of thinking about how libraries contribute public value, the distinct competencies they can contribute to their communities, and their unique positioning to respond to a community's social and political needs. …

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