Lecturer/Special Projects Librarian, Rutgers University
Nancy Kranich, a past president of the American Library Association (ALA), founded and convenes ALA's Center for Civic Life and the Libraries Foster Community Engagement Membership Initiative Group, trained and practices as a public innovator with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, serves on the board of the National Issues Forums Institute, works with the Kettering Foundation to promote democratic practices through libraries and other organizations, and co-leads the US-Russia Dialogue on the Civic Role of Libraries in the 21stCentury. She teaches community engagement, information policy and intellectual freedom at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and works on special projects with the Rutgers University Libraries.
Many of her numerous publications about libraries and community engagement are available through the Rutgers open access institutional repository, RU Core.
Learn more about Nancy Kranich’s work with The Harwood Institute:
How has your work been impacted by the Turning Outward practice?
It has totally transformed the way I see my work, execute actions, and teach students about community. It is foundational to all my practice!
How do you view the role of libraries in your community?
As the catalytic organization that listens to communities and brings people together across differences. Libraries are gaining more recognition of this role, thanks to the commitment toward turning outward.
What would you say to a library professional who aims to make more positive, lasting impact on their community?
For success, librarians in all types of libraries need to turn outward toward their communities, listen to the aspirations and concerns of their constituents--especially those rarely heard, and find innovative ways to align their work with what their communities care about most. The community's success is the library's success and vice versa! And the work invigorates those who participate, providing hope and excitement with plenty of encouraging results.
What are some of your aspirations for your library, your community, and our larger society?
As a librarian working on a campus, I want our librarians to engage more deeply with their constituents on campus--a practice I have promoted since I trained as a public innovator in 2011. Bridging the gap between the work of the library and students and faculty is crucial if they are to move forward together. When we conducted numerous community conversations, we discovered many opportunities that were otherwise opaque, if not invisible to us. Automation and budget cuts have caused increasing alienation between libraries and their campuses, particularly on my own campus. The only way to counter this downward spiral is to align the the library's priorities and strategies with the aspirations and concerns of campus communities (of which there are many ripe for discovery). Despite a lack of funds, libraries can advance and contribute great value by advancing their campuses through turning outward, initiatives-- listening and leveraging their resources toward common concerns.
Over the last decade, I've used this turning outward approach in a variety of initiatives in the local community and they have proven quite valuable in bringing people together. Likewise, I have championed this work nationally and internationally, with great interest. For more than 15 years, I have encouraged librarians to work with the Harwood Institute, and was instrumental in launching the ALA/Harwood Libraries Transform Communities initiative. Beyond my own expectations, our work with Harwood has generated excitement far beyond the U.S. with librarians demonstrating world wide the power and possibility of this practice in aligning libraries more closely with their communities.