1. What Is Community Mapping?

In this section we will discuss what community mapping is and why it is important to your library. 

After completing this section, you will be able to...

  • Explain what a community asset map is
  • Describe why community mapping is valuable to your library
  • Begin the process of creating a community asset map

“You have to look at your local industry, study it carefully, interpret your local demographic, interpret your local workforce, and then try to find a newsworthy, best practice program that is hands-on, self-directed, project-based, and fun, and teens will come in.”

— Branch Manager at an urban western library

Community mapping is a systematic approach to getting to know the people, places, and resources that surround your library. It is a way to take stock of “the gifts, skills and capacities of individuals, voluntary associations, institutions, physical assets, local economy assets and stories in the community.”1 The community mapping process may draw on, among other sources of information,

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Statistics about your community
  • Business directories

Learning more about the people in your community (and not just those that already use the library) can help you

  • Identify ways for the library to better meet the wants and needs of your community
  • Find opportunities to reach new audiences
  • Uncover groups that are not being reached by the library

Getting to know the associations, businesses, and other resources in your community can help you

  • Find experts to mentor your teens or help with programs
  • Discover physical resources you can leverage
  • Understand what is available to your community from sources outside the library
  • Identify or form relationships that can lead to partnerships

Community mapping focuses on the strengths and assets of a community instead of on weaknesses and gaps, leading to unconventional programs that leverage a community’s unique strengths. This module will walk you through the steps of the mapping process, whether you are planning a large initiative that will take several months, or setting aside an afternoon by yourself.

1: Teen Asset Mapping Report: A Report and Recommendations from the Denver Public Library. Denver Public Library, 2014.