Community-Centered Services

Goals for this module:

  • Describe your community in terms of assets and strengths, not deficits and needs
  • Learn how to put community at the center of your youth services
  • Collect information to help you understand your community
  • Describe concrete steps you can take to start putting community at the center of your youth services

“We think we can train ourselves to be anything and oftentimes miss the point: brilliant people are coming into our buildings every day.”

— Chrystie Hill et al. in IMLS Focus: Learning in Libraries.

Mutual goals

Libraries are only one community-based organization with one goal being to help teens grow up successfully and have the skills, knowledge, confidence, and competence to succeed in life. And, as only one of several of these organizations within a community, it’s essential for libraries to connect and build services with these organizations so that teens have a continuum of resources and services from which to draw.

Expanding expertise

Connected learning is centered on the idea that teens have opportunities to build relationships with and be mentored and coached by a wide variety of community members. This means that library staff recognize that they aren’t the only ones who can work towards reaching community goals. The only way to truly build connected learning services is by building services that are community-centered (and not just library-centered).

Working with assets

Community-centered library services focus on the assets of community stakeholders and organizations. These assets enable library staff, and others in the community, to change their focus from what is wrong with and difficult for teens to what is available to help teens grow up successfully. For example, a library staff member might think, “Teens in our rural community do not have access to out-of-school-time weekend activities.” With an asset-based approach that same staff member can change that thinking to, “There are people in our community who work in fields such as carpentry, auto repair, metalsmithing, let’s talk with them about how to provide weekend opportunities for teens.”

Sharing power across the community is equitable

When library staff design, plan, and implement services for teens in a silo, they hold all the power in what happens, how it happens, where it happens, and so on. When working with the community to design, plan, and implement services for and with teens, community voices become a part of the process and the library is not holding all of the power. Power sharing with stakeholders leads to action that is community centered.

Worksheet #1: Community-Centered Services K-W-L

Before moving forward in the module, spend some time thinking about what you already know about community-centered services, and what you hope to learn from this module. The first worksheet in your Community-Centered Services Workbook is a “KWL” — that stands for Know, Want to learn, and Learned.

First describe your experience (if any) with community-centered services. Then make a list of things you already know about community-centered services. Then write down what you want to learn in this module. You’ll fill out the last column, what you learned (L), when you have completed this module.

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