Librarians in both Russia and the United States have led efforts to engage citizens in discussions about their future that affirm the role of libraries as active participants in their communities. Historically, the public has trusted libraries like no other institution. Today, librarians in both countries are building on that trust and working together with citizens to build and sustain vibrant communities. No longer just places for books, the libraries of the future are becoming the center of their communities by moving beyond offering services to the community to working with the community to promote learning and increase the capacity of citizens to address public problems. A group of about twenty librarians from the US and Russia convened in Dayton, OH in March 2017. We are planning a second meeting in Russia in May 2018.
What is unique about these current discussions is the potential for new models to emerge from the two countries’ innovative efforts to reposition their libraries as community catalysts. In both countries, libraries are working in tandem with citizens to design more meaningful and relevant 21st-century services. They are engaging their communities in library planning and decision-making, aligning services and collections with local priorities. They are also creating new collaborative partnerships with government, businesses, schools, universities, and community organizations. They have experimented with ways citizens can have a stronger voice in shaping the ways public issues are addressed.
We will present the outcomes of the two meetings, and outline any next steps for collaborative work.