Our Work with Libraries

Communities need libraries. The Country needs libraries, perhaps now more than ever. As divides grow within communities, libraries are continually looked upon as more than just a place to read, but as a refuge as well. With many municipalities struggling financially, libraries are among the first institutions to feel the squeeze. Budget cuts can result in less community engagement at a time when it's needed the most. The Harwood Institute recognizes the important role that libraries serve. For almost a decade, The Institute has partnered with the American Libraries Association (ALA), offering librarians training to help make their efforts more effective and efficient, in order to sustain not only libraries, but their communities as well.

Prominent Training Alumni



President and CEO, The Enoch Pratt library, Baltimore, MD

"By understanding our community, we can collaborate to solve problems and bring about positive change." 


Brian dawson

Library Development Director, State Library Dept of Ed, PA

"It's the pragmatic approach, not Utopian. You learn to set real expectations for your community."

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cindy fesemyer

Director, Columbus Public Library, Madison, WI

"We can be what people need. It's common sense, but sometimes you have to teach common sense."

Available Training

Case Studies

Tools for Library Professionals

Featured Publications

United We Stand? Bringing Together Disparate Voices by Chelsea Baker, Aspirations to Actions blog

...I volunteered to lead the group that was tasked with drafting our public knowledge summary. Once again, it seemed like we were up against a huge challenge. How could we possibly condense dozens of pages of disparate voices into a brief, easily-digestible report that authentically represents the nuances of people’s aspirations and concerns? However, as the team started to pore over the conversation notes, we realized that the voices weren’t really all that disparate. Read more

Our Path to Engagement, Learning, and Stewardship by David J. Seleb, Public Library Quarterly

How do we engage with our community in a more meaningful way? How do we make the user experience the center of all we do? What impact are we having and how do we measure it? In an effort to better answer these questions and make a tighter connection between library objectives and the broader needs of the community, the Oak Park Public Library embarked on a journey to “turn outward.” Following the Harwood model for community engagement, Oak Park has made strides in unifying its internal operations and strengthening strategic partnerships. Its intention is wider and deeper community impact. Read more

Turning Outward in Practice: Q&A with Alice Knapp of Ferguson Library by ALA, Libraries Transform 

Libraries around the country are already putting the “turning outward” approach to work in their communities. Alice Knapp is president at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Conn.; in October 2013, she attended a Harwood Institute Public Innovators Lab. Here, Knapp tells ALA about her library’s experience with the “turning outward” approach. Read more