The academic library and the local community

I wonder… where does the academic library fit in to the new and exciting world of civic engagement by academia? Specifically I want to know what role (if any) should an academic library play in supporting local citizen scientists, social innovators, and researchers? And what role (if any) should an academic library play in supporting campus partners engaged in community based service learning, experiential learning, and/or transformative learning?

Exploring profound change in people, organizations and society
Exploring profound change in people, organizations and society

I begin with a conversation. I have started by approaching anyone and everyone who might be interested in sharing their thoughts with me about the important of social innovation and local community development. The response has been tremendously overwhelming. For every person I talk to I am given names of others. I feel as though a tap has burst. Everyone I speak to has ideas and is excited by my questions and to have a chance to talk about this issue. Realizing just how much I need to learn I have had to step back.

On their website, the Higher Education Network for Community Engagement (HENCE) state that community engagement ought to be a core element of higher education’s role in society. They call institutions in higher education to “deepen, consolidate, and advance the literature, research, practice, policy, and advocacy for community engagement“. HENCE’s mandate is part of a larger view that we to renew the civic mission of higher education and transform academic culture. In 2007, the OECD suggested that higher education institutions need to better engage their institutions and their staff with their local communities. Worldwide, we are seeing institutions in higher education intentionally developing and supporting active collaborative strategies that align and engage their research and teaching more closely with public purposes and the needs of their local citizens: community based scholarship, experiential learning, service learning… and so on.

I am reading up on Town/Gown relations, Library/community relations, Community Based Scholarship, Citizen Scientists, Social Innovation…I have also begun teaching myself about Theory U, and Presencing.

Soon, I hope to hear from libraries and librarians who have developed formal (or Informal) initiatives to support their community based researchers and social innovators. I am also interested in librarians who are interested in sharing their ideas about how and why academic libraries could/should be more actively involved these initiatives. Soon … but not just yet … for now I want to listen to the community tell me their stories.

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