« Back to Positioning the Library

Inspire the Next Chapter: Community Engagement Initiative

Calgary Public Library, AB
Watch Video

Innovation Summary

An intensive community engagement initiative was developed to determine what citizens want from their library experience and how a new Central Library can contribute to their vision of a great city. By using a variety of innovative tools and strategic engagement opportunities over 16,000 citizens contributed to a future vision.

Problem Statement

The Initiative addressed a number of major challenges: • Project timelines demanded a quick start to creating initial awareness of changing library roles and the new Central Library project, as a precursor to thoughtful engagement • Engagement tactics had to consider competing priorities for citizens’ attention over the summer/fall period • Coordination and communication among diverse project stakeholders including the Library staff and Board, City Administration and Council, and the consultants who were developing the functional program for the new Central Library • Ensuring that the engagement included the breadth of community, including all demographic categories, all quadrants of the City, and both library users and non-users • Developing the messaging and tactics so that all Calgary residents understand how the investment in a new downtown library may benefit suburban communities • Ability to quickly implement diverse marketing tactics including social media, traditional media (radio, newspaper and TV), transit ads, bold signs and in-library promotions • Organizing a strong corps of staff and volunteers who could quickly implement the engagement initiative in an informed and confident manner


1. The engagement process was divided into key phases, with related tasks: Phase 0: Project Kick-Off • Project Co-ordination • Public Engagement Strategy Phase 1: Think Big! • Public Launch Event • Project Website Launch • Opt-in Issue and Priorities Survey • Children and Youth Engagement Phase 2: Dig Deep! • Public Big Events • Children and Family Events • Youth Engagement • Library Staff Engagement • Stakeholder Focus Groups Phase 3: Wrapping it Up! • Communicate Results to Public and Stakeholders • Final Report 2. The “Think Big!” phase was designed to have citizens identify priorities for both the new Central Library and their community library. As it was during the summer, a “go to the community” approach was taken, with a survey deployed online and on iPads via project ambassadors who went to 100 events/locations including Stampede breakfasts, festivals, farmer’s markets, etc. Over 12,000 citizens completed the survey in two months. The “Dig Deep!” phase built on information from Phase 1, and allowed for more thoughtful input regarding 4 themes: library spaces and virtual places; collections and staffing; programs and services; and the role of the library in the community. 3. While all citizens and stakeholders were encouraged to participate, the following were identified as “key target audiences” with activities developed accordingly: o “Next Gens” (18-30) o “Young Adults (12-17) o “Children” (6-11) o “The difficult to engage” including newcomers, senior citizens, and homeless population o “Community and Stakeholder Groups” including Library staff and networks that provide services for the community o “The average resident” 4. Project development and leadership was collaborative, with cross-sectional teams from The City and the Library.


The initiative was deemed as one of the city’s most successful civic engagements. It achieved the following in a five month period (June – October 2012): • Over 16,000 engaged • Ten different ways to engage were offered, providing a mix of on-line, in-person, go-to-them and location based opportunities: Phase 1: Think Big! 1. Issues and Priorities Survey 2. Children’s Activity Sheet 3. Children’s Coin Drop Activity 4. Children’s Curiosity Corner 5. Youth Engagement Contest Phase 2: Dig Deep! 1. Public Big Events , with ten interactive stations 2. Library Staff Engagement, including background papers and workbooks 3. Teen Night Events 4. At-Risk Youth Interviews 5. Stakeholder Focus Groups • Broader community awareness and support for the new Central Library and future branch libraries • Funding approval from City Council for both the new Central Library and future branches. Community engagement played a role in achieving these approvals • The quality of the input received through engagement was thoughtful and significant. It is influencing the development of the new Central Library and future growth libraries • Results from the staff engagement survey are influencing organizational growth and change. • The City of Calgary and the Calgary Public Library have developed a stronger and more resilient working relationship.