Written by Brooks Rainwater, President and CEO, Urban Libraries Council
For the past 12 months, ULC has engaged in a strategic planning process. We partnered with a strategic planning firm that helps organizations tackle this important growth-mindset and strength-building exercise. As many libraries know, a thoughtful strategic planning process involves a lot of interviews, collected feedback to examine and time to refine it all. It's been rewarding to be part of a strategic planning process that places the ULC member at its center.
We heard from members that threats to intellectual freedom, the politicization of libraries, social issues and funding are among the top trends or challenges to your work in upcoming years. But, overall, we heard you value the member engagement and networking opportunities offered with your ULC membership. So, we are not going to stop what is working for you. But we will dig deeper into how to activate strategic opportunities for us to strengthen and advance the essential role of public libraries.
Here's a glimpse into the key areas where ULC will lead the charge as we progress forward.
1. ULC will continue to support the urban library leader.
ULC will provide programming to advance your leadership skills, create new pathways for individuals to enter the profession and foster the relationship between libraries to their trustees, foundations and other community partners.
What’s happening in January around this area of our work? We’ll unveil our new and improved Member Hub that provides new ways to stay engaged with your peers and learn from one another. We will also kick off a new dual track bootcamp series on how libraries can provide critical support for small business owners and entrepreneurs in their communities. Additionally, Edge training cohorts continue with participants growing their knowledge in the areas of digital equity and STEM summer learning.
2. ULC seeks to center the transformative role of public libraries.
Libraries are driving progress in their communities, and we want to capture those stories more fully to better elevate the value of your work in changing urban communities. Our recently launched Library Data Hive will be an important repository to monitor this progress, as will the annual Innovations initiative and ongoing programs to advance the next generation of public libraries. In the weeks ahead, we will share more about how to apply for an Innovations recognition this year and share more about how to harness partnerships, people and programs to advance your work.
3. ULC wants to drive greater advocacy for urban libraries.
We look to cultivate our collective power and grow influence over policy and legislation on issues that impact urban libraries. ULC will introduce a nonpartisan advocacy strategy for U.S. congressional legislation and federal agencies this winter. As you’ll learn more this year, this strategy will look to educate policymakers about the vital impact of public libraries in urban communities.
As we embark on what is sure to be another impactful year, we’ll share more about how these strategic priorities are being activated to achieve our vision that urban libraries are critical resources for transforming lives and strengthening communities.
Thank you to the ULC members who served on the Strategic Planning taskforce: Brian Bannon, Brigitte Blanton, Paula Brehm-Heeger, Joey Crawford, Heidi Daniel, Karl Dean, Mary Lomax-Ghirarduzzi, Pilar Martinez, Darren Solomon and Roosevelt Weeks. Your insight and expertise are appreciated during the planning process.
The Library Insights Survey serves as a guidepost for the resiliency of libraries and the bright spots they hold in our neighborhoods. This data demonstrates how libraries are strengthening their operations and purposefully serving their communities since the pandemic.
People, Power and Place: Takeaways for Library Leaders
In the 15 months since I started as President & CEO of ULC, I have had the opportunity to talk to the leader of every library in our membership and visit many libraries in my travels. And for a few days at the end of October, we harnessed that rewarding energy of learning from each other at the 2023 ULC Annual Forum in Seattle.
Protecting Intellectual Freedom & Condemning Books Bans
The Urban Libraries Council strongly supports libraries across North America as they face extreme challenges and recognize Banned Books Week. We’re grateful to partners such as the American Library Association and PEN America for cataloging the increase in book-banning attempts this year, on top of the already record number of attempts last year.