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How Libraries are Transforming Lives and Strengthening Communities

Feb2024 From The Ceo Blog Feature

Written by Brooks Rainwater, President and CEO, Urban Libraries Council

As I shared last month, ULC is starting 2024 with a refreshed approach to the strategic priorities that will guide our work this year, and in the years ahead. This strategic plan points to a very important vision as its North Star: Urban libraries are a critical resource for transforming lives and strengthening communities.

One of our key priorities within the strategic plan is to center the transformative role of public libraries. By keeping this focus in mind as we chart our work in the next three years, ULC will mark the accomplishments that help achieve our shared vision.

I am very proud of the current ULC programs and initiatives that are creating new frameworks for public libraries to better serve — and transform — their communities. Plus, we know that member libraries are making a significant impact on their communities and the residents who live there. But what this strategic priority looks to accomplish is elevating the transformative impact beyond just the library community:

1. We commit to providing library leaders with the programming models and comprehensive resources that advance the next generation of public libraries and elevate their value in a changing urban community.

Be sure to check out the Building Equity: Amplify Summer Learning Toolkit to transform youth engagement, with a particular focus on middle school students who have historically been excluded from STEM summer learning programs. Over the past two years, 20 member libraries joined a cohort to advance this area of their work and introduce new programming opportunities. They saw more than 31,000 youth participate in STEM summer programming, and nearly all libraries shared they are continuing this approach to summer learning.

2. We seek to cultivate our robust research and data offerings to provide timely insights and guidance for library leaders.

ULC is embarking on a unique partnership with, a location analytics technology company. We know that high-quality, relevant data can greatly improve how library systems understand their services and facilities performance, inform programming development, and enhance the patron experience and community engagement. Through ULC's partnership with, ULC members can get a discounted subscription to a best-in-class software solution that uses foot traffic data to help library leaders implement stronger impact evaluation practices. We will use to inform new research to make the case that libraries are driving visits to downtown areas and are an economic driver for cities.

3. We will facilitate dialogue and partnership between public libraries and key community institutions to advance the role of libraries in cities and counties.

I am happy to announce that ULC’s Creating Youth Opportunities project, which explores the role of libraries in supporting youth at risk of incarceration, just received a significant financial investment to advance the initiative. In partnership with national leaders in the opportunity youth and justice-impacted youth ecosystem, the project embraces the fact that library buildings outnumber juvenile detention centers by over 2,600%. This uniquely positions libraries to make a huge impact with meaningful reformative and transformative programs and services. To date, 11 participating libraries have received training to develop thoughtful, co-designed program plans for implementation in their communities to reach an upwards of more than 411,000 opportunity youth, who may be at risk of becoming justice-involved because of their circumstances.

Be sure to follow ULC on LinkedIn or subscribe to our email newsletter to stay informed on the transformative role of public libraries.

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