3.1 Plan Your Trip

Where are you going?

Gregory Ryan and Cate Bourke1 recommend thinking about your community work as a story about a journey, starting with “once upon a time” and ending with your vision for the community. “Beginning with the end in mind,” they say, will help guide the questions you ask and the methods you use as you work through this process. This vision should align with the perspectives of the youth and other community members you will talk to, so you may wish to revisit this vision at different points as you work through the process.

Why are you conducting this community mapping project? Your goal may be broad, such as finding ways to improve or diversify your teen programs. Or you may have a much more specific goal, like finding locations for field trips or prizes for a summer learning program. Your goal will affect how you go about creating your community map and the scale of your activities.

Questions to think about are:

  • How do you define your community? Are you looking at a hyperlocal area around the library, or are you looking at the entire city or beyond?
  • What kind of assets will you include? Depending on the purpose of your mapping project–or your resources–you may want to focus only on businesses, or only physical resources like space.

What is community?


Minnesota GCDD

Who will help you along the way?

Once you’ve decided what your goal for the project is, you can put together a team that will help you get there.

  • Get your youth patrons involved–both as information sources and facilitators who help interview community members. Since they are the audience you are looking to serve, their voice is the most important to listen to. Getting them involved in the process isn’t just helpful to you and good work experience for them–they can help you make the impact the library has on teens more visible to the community.
  • Is there a “champion” for the library that you can enlist to help connect you with other people and organizations? It might be someone active in your Friends group, or a community member who has been volunteering at the library.
  • What associations and institutions do you already have a relationship with? They can provide information and also help collect it.
  • The more your team reflects the diversity in your community, the more complete your map will be.

When you have assembled your team, make sure to get everyone on the same page during the planning process, understanding both the steps in the project and their roles in it.


If it’s just you, that’s OK--just remember to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Ideally, other people will help you collect, analyze, and act on information.


Adding more people to your mapping project makes it more complex, but there is a great deal of value in adding more community voices. Check out Community-Based Participatory Research (part of the Community Toolbox) to learn more.

Has anyone gone on this journey before?

While you are planning and assembling your team (if not earlier) try to find out if someone from another organization has conducted a community mapping project before you. If so, try to find out if elements of it can be used in your project. Make sure you have a clear idea of what additional work needs to be done and why–perhaps the information is out of date, or didn’t cover an area you’re interested in.


Don’t forget to develop evaluation plans before you start collecting information. You should plan to evaluate the process (so you can know what to do better in the future), the outcome (the results you ended up with) and the impact -- what difference did your project make?

For more on evaluation, see the Assessment and Evaluation module.

Community Mapping Activity: Record What You Learn

As you learn about the assets in your community from various sources, keep track of what you find! This will make it easier to update the information in the future. You can use the following worksheet to record what you learn.

Download Worksheet (DOCX)

Type of InformationSourceLast Updated DateNotes
Needs assssment reportLibrary08/2015Data needs updating. Includes interviews with teen patrons
???Local nonprofit???May have conducted a similar exercise last year

1CCAMP System Handbook, page 23. By Gregory Ryan and Cate Bourke, 2008. Connecticut Assets Network.