4.1 Community Assets

Community assets can be as broad as entire organizations, or as specific as individuals. In this module, assets will be very similar to those conceptualized in the Community Mapping module. Here, they are framed in terms of their relation to your library’s capacity. The University of Kansas in their online Community Tool Box defines an asset as “anything that can be used to improve the quality of community life.” For our purposes today, we will define assets as follows:

Individuals are the backbone of communities. Often, your library might have individuals that volunteer to shelve books or organize “friends of the library” fundraising events. There might be a stay-at-home dad who organizes playgroups, or a retired bus driver that bakes large batches of her family’s famous cookies. Individuals in our communities are diverse in their strengths, and can help expand the staffing capacity of your library.

Places can be physical, like a large building, or structural like a park or an open field. Schools, hospitals, even empty and unused spaces can be community assets. These places can help to expand the physical capacity of your library.

Services are assets that help to improve the quality of life for your community. They can be as simple as bus routes and other public transportation, or as complex as cultural organizations or childhood development centers. These services can often supplement and expand your library’s capacity in partnerships and outreach services.

Businesses can be large businesses like coffee chains or technology developers, or small businesses that are locally owned and operated. When thinking about the businesses in your community, it is important to think even as small as businesses like food trucks or ones that might be operating out of a community member’s garage. Every business has the opportunity to support your library and your community. Businesses often supplement a variety of capacities, including technology, space, partnerships, and staffing.

Professor John McKnight on Community Assets

Professor John McKnight on Community Assets

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the community that your library serves. As you do this, bring up the map you created in the Community Mapping module. Think about the people, places, services and businesses that make up your community that you marked on this map. It can be helpful to visualize your Community Map in relation to their strengths and assets, and can be done in a very similar way to assessing the capacity of your library. As you are doing this, keep in mind which assets and strengths might be the most helpful in relation to your library’s capacity. Here’s an example:

Midsize Library Community Assets & Strengths

Let’s use the same midsize library from our example in the beginning of the module. First, we will make a list of our community assets in each category:

Asset Name
Individuals
  • Anne Park--Software engineer
  • Ray Neng--Renovator
  • Righard Bell--Commercial baker
  • Holly Lampard--Mechanical engineer
Places
  • Parkland Elementary
  • Orchard Ridge High School
  • Red Mark Burgers
  • Parkland Church
  • Greenriver Park
Services
  • Community Transit
  • Early Beginnings Childhood Center
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Orchard Ridge Cultural Center
Businesses
  • Red Mark Burgers
  • Kern Writing & Math Tutoring
  • Starbucks
  • Guaco's Taco Truck

Then, we will expand to list their strengths:

Asset NameStrengths
Individuals
  • Anne Park--Software engineer
  • Ray Neng--Renovator
  • Righard Bell--Commercial baker
  • Holly Lampard--Mechanical engineer
-Technological knowledge
-Master carpenter
-Digital artist and knitter
-Engineer and 3D designer
Places
  • Parkland Elementary
  • Orchard Ridge High School
  • Red Mark Burgers
  • Parkland Church
  • Greenriver Park
-Large community space
-Hi-tech theater, computer lab with over 30 seats
-Often hosts fundraisers
-Community Dinners
-Large open field
Services
  • Community Transit
  • Early Beginnings Childhood Center
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Orchard Ridge Cultural Center
-Buses run until midnight
-Childhood development knowledge
-Afterschool programs
-Community space and community contacts
Businesses
  • Red Mark Burgers
  • Kern Writing & Math Tutoring
  • Starbucks
  • Guaco's Taco Truck
-Same as above
-Tutoring and homework help, teen volunteer contacts
-Caters coffee and pasteries
-Catering, comunity contacts

REFLECTION

Now it is your turn--what are the assets in your community? What strengths do they bring to the table? Take a moment to reflect, using your Community Map to help you.