Introduction: Libraries Addressing the Educational Needs of the Community

Education is of upmost importance to everyone, whether a child in school or an adult. We are constantly learning new things and have an urge to learn and build on previous knowledge as we broaden our horizons. New knowledge may be gained from multiple sources, including books, the media, social media, and churches, among others. While schools may be the primary source of education for children, this is not the case for adults who are no longer in school, who may need to explore alternative avenues for information and knowledge. While accessibility to new knowledge may be quite easy for those with financial resources, it may be a challenge for those from low-income households. Where then can these individuals go to access new information? One answer may be the community library.

Libraries have played a major role in communities, both urban and rural, serving as a place to borrow books and movies, read, study, or even make copies of documents, among others. For decades libraries have been serving in these roles, sometimes even as a place for friends to socialize. However, with increasing demands in communities, particularly in low-income communities, public libraries are seeing their traditional role change. Libraries are increasingly called upon to provide critical educational services to their communities (American Library Association, 2018) as they attempt to address the needs in their communities. To a large extent, much learning is taking place outside of the formal setting and occurring instead in libraries. As a result, public libraries are transforming their traditional role and increasing their services to include education and necessary life skills (Erich, 2018). These are skills necessary in everyday life activities. Some of these services are conducted alone, while in some cases libraries are required to collaborate with other entities such as colleges and universities to provide the needed services to their communities.

This section of the book will explore several ways in which libraries collaborated with other entities to address critical community needs. These collaborations were done in an effort to better educate and inform individuals on certain issues of importance. These chapters share models of how public libraries collaborated with other stakeholders to provide certain community services that are outside of the traditional role of public libraries.

Harhai discussed “Engaged, Educated and Entertained: Employing a Facilitated Discussion Model” where a model called facilitated discussion, utilized by the public library to teach literacy skills to community members, is presented. The model used books, videos, and facilitators who are knowledgeable about selected topics to enhance literacy. These literacy projects were undertaken to increase and enhance literacy development in the community. The use of books, videos and expert speakers were used to explore various topics such as the World War 1. Another project explored science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics in an effort to interest and educate adults on science topics. The objectives of these projects were to inform adults in the community about various topics while enhancing literacy.

A summer book club is the focus of Barrera, Skinner, and Reilly’s work in “The Carver Cubs Summer Book Club: A Reciprocal Collaboration Between a Neighborhood Library and a Graduate Elementary Teacher Preparation Program”. The program discusses a partnership between a public library and the graduate teacher preparation program at Louisiana State University in the United States. The program is about a service-learning or community-based learning course, whereby education students from the university participated in the summer program as part of the course requirement. Students assisted with a reading-intensive program, which greatly increased exposure to literature and reading and comprehension for the children participating in the summer camp. This program is a true partnership that is mutually beneficial. It provided an opportunity for pre-service teachers to gain hands-on experience in teaching and working with a diverse learning group, while for the children in the summer camp, they were provided with free instruction in reading through group and individual instruction.

Russo in “Information Literacy Through Service-Learning” provided a similar program on how libraries are engaged in service-learning or community-based learning courses to enhance literacy. Students from Louisiana State University in the United States were assigned to a local public library as part of their course. Their role was to provide assistance to the library staff in various capacity, thus familiarizing them with services the library has to offer and how these services were carried out. Library staff received much needed assistance in getting the work of the library done, while students were exposed to a wealth of electronic and print material within the library that is at their disposal.

Another project presented to educate the community is that of a monthly health talk. Kang, Mancini, Raivich and Wong in “The Monthly Health Talk: How a

90 Henry R. Cunningham

Consumer Health Library Became a Hub for a Successful health Education Event Through Partnerships and Community Engagement”, present a project that is a collaboration among several entities to provide monthly health presentations to members of the community to educate participants on health-related topics. Knowledgeable individuals present the topics covered in an attempt to address prevention, safety, wellness, and self-management. What is unique about this particular project is that participants come from different linguistic background, many of whom do not speak or understand English. To address this issue, interpreters are provided at the sessions, enabling non-English speakers to benefit from these monthly talks.

The authors spent quite a bit of time discussing how the collaboration was developed and what drove them to seek out partners to address the identified need. For those interested in similar collaborations, this section provides strategies on how to develop partnerships and with whom to develop these partnerships. They explored the mutual interest that existed between and among the various stakeholders that drove them to collaborate. The systematic approach taken to develop the project should also prove helpful for others as the authors went into detail to outline the steps taken as these projects were developed. The level of detail provided ensures that anyone who wants to replicate a program of this nature has somewhat of a template onto which one can build in creating their own initiative.

This section also covers the challenges in developing these models to educate the community, as they were all new programs that originated through joint interest from the various stakeholders. The authors however, did a great job discussing how they were able to address the challenges faced and the lessons learned from the process. This section should be particularly helpful for individuals or entities interested in developing similar programs in their community so as to avoid the pitfalls encountered in these projects.

These models presented provide varied opportunities in which libraries may collaborate with other stakeholders to address critical educational needs in the community. It speaks to the changing roles of libraries that demonstrate the need for libraries to be more proactive in serving their communities in ways that go beyond merely a place to borrow and read a book. This is a new role for many libraries and librarians but one for which they seem poised to embrace in their community.


American Library Association. (2018). Let’s talk about it. Retrieved from http://www.

Erich, A. (2018). The role of public libraries in non-formal learning. Romanian Journal for Multidimensional Education, 10(3), 17-24. doi:10.18662/rrem/59

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