Many public libraries support local economic development by providing local tourism information and internet and wifi access to visitors. Any support for tourism offered by the library can be cited as a benefit. The library is a central meeting point for locals and visitors alike and acknowledgment needs to be given to the significant contribution provided to the community fabric of a local government area by their public library services.
It is incumbent on local government to understand, develop, and promote their "cultural capital," and public libraries at the heart of this by providing use of facilities, community partnerships, support for local arts community and budding individuals, outreach activities, and specific cultural programs. The link between libraries and community engagement and culture needs to be acknowledged and developed within local government.
Libraries need a voice at the community table. Public libraries have the potential to assume a much greater role in community strengthening, but this potential must be acknowledged by local government executives. Libraries need to forge stronger partnerships with community groups, government and business. The public library needs to be promoted to non-users, so that they become aware of the many roles that libraries fill and the services they provide beyond book lending, and local councils needs to acknowledge the immense contribution and potential of this service in community building and place making. This has never been of greater importance than now when a new council is attempting to forge a new identity and regain community trust.
Public libraries are unique, open institutions, where people have access to information, technology and training on an as-needed basis making them a key contributor to the community development process for local government. With digital information and greater outreach, libraries are transforming the way they interact with the public at a much greater speed than is being acknowledged. They are becoming much more proactive and collaborative, contributing in a variety of ways to stronger local economic development conditions. Public libraries sustain the community in social, cultural and environmental terms and contribute positively in terms of economic value, benefit and activity.
The link between libraries and community engagement and culture needs to be acknowledged and developed within local government.
Public libraries are logical partners for community development initiatives as they provide a broad range of information services to diverse constituencies. Raising the library’s profile in the community through active participation and engagement with the community will ensure that the library’s value will be communicated to library users, stakeholders, and the community at large.
Amalgamated councils, such as Snowy Valleys Council, are at a cross roads with regards to their engagement with the community. The ability to provide strong support for a new Council’s strategic direction and development of place needs a collaborative approach from all Council’s major stakeholders, libraries included. As a ‘core’ business already actively involved in community development libraries have the ability to provide a key communication funnel between the newly developing Councils and communities that are still trying to come to terms with the significant changes that have resulted from the merger process.
As a ‘core’ service of Council, the libraries and their staff can focus on building community face-to-face relations, inspiring and educating patrons about art, literature, and music, and helping patrons engage in their council and develop its culture, but only if local government executives realises the potential within these dynamic institutions and their staff members.
This story was contributed by 2017 Jean Arnot Memorial Fellow, Kristin Twomey
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