American Library Association Community Engagement

Suffolk Public Library Selected for American Library Association Community Engagement Initiative

The American Library Association (ALA) has selected the Suffolk Public Library as one of 10 public libraries that will undergo an intensive 18-month, team-based community engagement training program as part of the Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC) Public Innovators Cohort. The cohort, selected through a highly competitive peer-reviewed application process, is part of ALA’s LTC initiative, a national plan to help librarians strengthen their role as core community leaders and change-agents.
American Library Association


Through in-person training, webinars and coaching - valued at $50,000 - 4 Suffolk Public Library staff members will learn new community engagement techniques and apply them to challenges in the Suffolk area. The library will also receive an $8,000 cash grant to help cover the cost of new community-engagement work.

“We’re thrilled to have been selected to be a part of such a prestigious group of libraries,” said Sarah Townsend, Outreach Services Manager and LTC Project Director for the Suffolk Public Library. “We’re looking forward to stretching ourselves creatively and building on the good work already being done in Suffolk to be leaders of innovation in the community.”

The selected libraries represent the range of American communities in terms of size, location, ethnic and racial diversity and socioeconomic status, and they all face challenges including illiteracy; unemployment; a “digital divide” in access to information technology; an influx of new and immigrant populations; and disparate access to services.


Other members of the LTC Public Innovators Cohort include: Red Hook NY Public Library (population 1,900)
  • Columbus, WI Public Library (population 5,000)
  • Hartford, CT Public Library (population 125,000)
  • Knox County, IN Public Library (population 33,900)
  • Los Angeles, CA Public Library (population 3.8 million)
  • San Jose, CA Public Library (population 980,000)
  • Spokane County, WA Library District (population 255,000)
  • Springfield, MA City Library (population 153,000)
  • Tuscaloosa, AL Public Library (population 195,000)
“Public libraries have long served as trusted and treasured institutions, and librarians today can leverage that strong position for the betterment of their communities,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “As a longtime champion of library-led community engagement and innovation, ALA is primed to provide the tools and support that will enable librarians to more effectively fulfill this vital role.”

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation

In partnership with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, Libraries Transforming Communities addresses a critical need within the library field by developing and distributing new tools, resources and support for librarians to engage with their communities in new ways. Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Libraries Transforming Communities is grounded in The Harwood Institute’s approach of “turning outward,” which emphasizes changing the orientation of institutions and individuals from internal (institutional) to external (community-facing).

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About the Harwood Institute

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Md., that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together. The institute is guided by Richard C. Harwood, whose transformational work during the past 25 years has spread to thousands of communities nationally and worldwide, from small towns to large cities.