New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

From the President: June 2014

Photo of Sara Kelly Johns

Sara Kelly Johns, NYLA President

Who is Rich Harwood? Why is He Keynoting at the 2014 NYLA Conference?

Jeremy: Do you have anyone in mind as a keynote speaker for the NYLA Conference?
Sara: Rich Harwood! Let’s see if he wants to come home to Saratoga and if we can afford him. He has so much to bring to New York. What’s the budget?

After forty or so e-mails, NYLA was on his schedule. I am sure the conference being in Saratoga DID make a difference.  Since ALA connected with Rich in 2012 with its community engagement initiative, the vocabulary in the divisions, roundtables and at headquarters has changed to include terms like “aspirational,” “outwardly focused,” “community conversations.”  The Gates Foundation is funding a three-year initiative with the Harwood Public Innovators Lab for Libraries as part of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) to strengthen libraries’ roles as core community leaders and change-agents. According to the ALA LTC website, the initiative addresses

“…a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources, and support for libraries to engage with their communities in new ways.  As a result, we believe libraries will become more reflective of and connected to their communities and build stronger partnerships with local civic agencies, nonprofits, funders and corporations.”  

New York State’s libraries—public, school and academic—ARE connected to their communities but as we have to answer again and again why libraries are increasingly crucial and so worthy of solid funding, we know there is more to do. Every week, when I read the NYLA News You Can Use e-mail, the stories listed show that our libraries are both reaching out to communities and inviting them in—and active public relations make sure that the media covers the legislator visits, the storytime activities, the middle school Bookapalooozas and the youth services Teen Book Fairs. The Catskill Public Library is going to house the community radio station and the East Hampton Public Library fought the zoning board for years for a much-needed children’s room.  At the NYLA conference last year, I heard about the Tully Public Library creating a community bulletin board on their library website because the local Pennysaver stopped production.  Those are only a very few examples of New York State libraries meeting community needs.

Rich Harwood’s keynote will help us all shift our focus on community engagement and community conversations with techniques that will help transform our libraries to be even more outwardly focused--whether it’s a small rural community; a New York City borough; the students, staff, parents, administration, businesses and school boards of a school community;  the “town and gown” academic community; or even the inmates, staff and administration served by a prison library. There are related community engagement programs scheduled during the conference and free tools on the ALA TLC web site to access when we get back on the job. One goal of the initiative is to develop tools, techniques, and training developed that can be used by academic, school, and other libraries as well as public libraries.  What are his “Three A’s?” The “Three Minute Ask?” And, how will a keynote address from Rich Harwood make you and your library change agents for your community?

I am excited that NYLA will be hosting Rich in Saratoga and even more excited about New York State libraries increasing our innovation and impact. The perception of libraries will shift to increasingly integral with “community engagement.’

Click here for more information on Harwood.