LA County Public Library
Contact Name: Yolanda De Ramus, firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Initiative: Civic Engagment
Los Angeles County ranks as the largest and most diverse county in the nation. LA County Library provides service to over 3.5 million residents through 87 community libraries and a variety of mobile and online services. As the County and the role of libraries has consistently changed and evolved over the years, the Library decided to take a proactive approach in engaging with its local communities to help guide its future direction.
A series of five town-hall style gatherings were conducted, encouraging customers to share their thoughts through open and honest discussions, led by Library Director Skye Patrick, to gather feedback on ways the system could better serve its customers. These Visioning Sessions were held in each of the County’s five supervisorial districts, with approximately 350 attendees representing different age groups, genders, cultures, professions, and socio-economic statuses.
In its continuous effort to increase access and remove barriers, the Library utilized technology to expand the reach of its engagement efforts. Sessions were video-conferenced to two additional library locations in each district, allowing communities to connect in real time, hear each other's ideas, and begin to understand the different needs throughout the vast county. For those who could not attend in person, sessions were livestreamed on the Library’s website. Customers were able to live-Tweet us as well as provide feedback via the Library’s website and idea boards posted at library locations.
Through the use of a variety of communication platforms, the Library learned it was providing many of the services the communities wanted; they were simply unaware of it. These interactive exchanges were a great way to connect the dots and raise awareness of services, as well as provide the Library with an understanding of where to target its marketing strategies. Participants also brought new ideas and suggestions on programming, many of which are now in the process of being implemented.
Session results were translated into action items and the outcomes thus far have shown Visioning Sessions to be an invaluable tool for documenting the priorities of each community and establishing trusting partnerships. The sessions establish the Library as a place of ongoing transformation, in which services are designed with community aspirations and needs in mind, representing a meaningful civic engagement. This model would be easily replicable in other library systems, both large and small, to gain a better understanding of their customers while raising awareness and visibility of services and programs.