Be An Informed Citizen

Be An Informed Citizen

Posted on Tuesday January 04, 2011 at 10:24AM

Library Service Responses – Be an Informed Citizen
The previous blurb, No Staff, No Money, No Time: Making it Work, was the last in the series on Human Resources. This next series, Library Service Responses, will look at the eighteen possible service responses that your Community Planning Committee can choose from while working on your library’s Plan of Service. Due to the size of most libraries within the Northern Lights Library System, you should be concentrating on only three or four. The Weekly Blurb will look at what implications the service responses have for libraries, collections that libraries can develop in this area, programs, technologies and ways of measuring progress.
This week, the service response under the microscope is “Be an Informed Citizen.” According to the Sandra Nelson book, Strategic Planning for Results, the benefits that your community experiences due to this service is:
Residents will have the information they need to support and promote democracy, to fulfill their civic responsibilities at the local, state (province), and national levels, and to fully participate in community decision making.
What does it mean to be an informed citizen? In part, one needs to have an understanding of current events, and decisions and actions that led up to those events. It means being current in what is occurring in the local community, and how to participate in it. Knowing how local, provincial and national government works, who the players, are and how the decisions are made also contribute to becoming an informed citizen.
How does library staff promote every aspect of civic responsibility? No one person can do everything, but there is always someone in the community willing to share what knowledge they have. Below are some session/program ideas that your libraries may be interested in promoting.
1. Current event discussion groups. Choose a topic or newspaper article that is current (this works best if the topic is somewhat controversial). Advertise that the library will be hosting a discussion on this topic and that participants of all ages are welcome. If you promote this at local high schools, you may find some history or civics teachers strongly urging their students to attend. Also promote it in the local seniors’ centres and churches. In this way, you have a chance of getting a multi-generational group, which makes for great perspectives. To start out, set ground rules for an atmosphere that is conducive to polite debate, then ask for someone to paraphrase their understanding of the topic. This may automatically start the debate rolling, as different people will see the topic differently. If the discussion is slow to get going, have some questions prepared, such as: what impact will this have on our community? What could have been done differently to change the outcome? Who is responsible and why? This discussion can also be set up on your libraries website, if your community is more comfortable debating electronically than in person. Measure: 1 minute satisfaction survey and/or number of attendees.
2. Guest speakers. Invite local representatives in to give a presentation on what their job entails. Many people have no idea what a town councilor, CAO, mayor, or MLA does. These guests will most likely want to participate, as it gets them seen in the community and a chance to share what a day in their lives looks like. It could be set up as a Q & A, so that members of the community can ask about specific concerns. Make sure you promote this well – it’s very awkward to have a guest that no one shows up to listen to! Measures: 1 minute satisfaction survey and/or number of attendees.
3. This past October, library manager Laura Hill of McPherson Municipal Library in Ryley sent out a list of questions to all those who were running for office. She posted the responses to the library’s website, and got some good press in the local paper. The candidates got to think about their answers and had a forum in which to present themselves, and the library got the recognition for being involved in local politics. Win/win! Measure: Track your websites stats and look for increase in traffic.

For more services and program ideas, check out the Sandra Nelson book, Strategic Planning for Results, on page 149.

Next issue we’ll look at resources and displays that you may wish to consider if “Be an Informed Citizen” is one of your library’s priorities.

Nelson, Sandra (2008). Strategic Planning for Results. Chicago: American Library Association.

Reminder: Patty is starting to book rooms for the Jasper Conference. If you plan on attending, please contact Patty.

Author: Northern Lights Library System

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