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Community-Led and Safe Communities Initiative
Edmonton Public Library
Edmonton’s numerous distinct neighbourhoods and culturally diverse communities present a multiplicity of needs in the areas of learning and literacy, public health and safety, economic development and basic access to information. In response, EPL committed to finding ways to reach out to Edmonton’s underserved communities through strategic collaborations with existing civic and community organizations.
EPL reified its commitment to civic and community engagement by taking the bold step of establishing 17 community librarian positions working out of 17 service points throughout the city. These librarians connect with community groups and agencies, forming both formal and informal relationships that allow EPL to respond to self-identified community priorities. This decentralized approach allows service points to respond to their communities effectively on a very local level. More broadly, the Community-Led Service Philosophy has been established system-wide as a cornerstone of EPL’s service approach. A Toolkit was published outlining recommendations for implementing the Community-Led Service Philosophy (CLSP) at all staffing levels. A CLSP team also coordinates regular opportunities for managers, community librarians and other staff to learn collaboratively by sharing the successes and challenges of implementing this service philosophy. A formalized reflection/reporting process is being developed to facilitate ongoing evaluation of this approach to service provision. An important component of this evaluation will include meaningful feedback from community partners.
In 2010, community librarians worked with over 310 organizations in Edmonton for a total average of 145 hours per week. These librarians are developing relationships, skills and strategies that result in measurable outcomes such as increased circulation of specific collections and increased program attendance. Impacts are more difficult to measure, but the use of a logic model of evaluation will enable ongoing assessment to determine long-term impacts. The value of this community engagement was demonstrated when representatives of 2 partnering organizations spoke passionately at public budget hearings about the library’s positive impact on their communities.