Libraries & Civic Engagement: National Civic Review Highlights

February 11th, 2013


Contact: Phyllis Jordan

Public libraries play a vital role in nurturing an active citizenry, including bringing together neighbors, promoting community engagement and supporting lifelong learning, according to a special issue of the National Civic Review, the quarterly journal of the National Civic League.  Featuring essays  from local elected and appointed officials, philanthropic leaders, and public library directors and trustees, the issue highlights the value of engaged and empowered citizens and the capacity libraries have to lead the way toward productive citizen engagement. 

“As our recent elections demonstrated, citizens understand that we have a collective and urgent stake in shaping the future of the world we live in,” writes Guest Editor Susan Benton, President and CEO of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC).  “Public libraries, as cornerstones and crossroads of democracy, can help lead the way.”

Highlights of key messages from the essays include:

  • The library’s vital role in helping a community find hope after the tragedy of gun violence – Skip Noe, City Manager, Aurora, Colorado
  • The changing value of public libraries from a physical object (book) to an essence, feeling, condition (community) – Patrick Losinski, CEO, Columbus, Ohio, Public Library
  • Strategies for strengthening social cohesion and breaking down isolation and civic segregation in a city long known for active and engaged citizens – Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, and Kit Hadley, Director, Saint Paul Public Library
  • The importance of investing in libraries where people acquire the skills to become lifelong learners, compete in the global economy, and participate in civic life – Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation; Deborah Jacobs, Gates Foundation; and Julia Stasch, MacArthur Foundation
  • How public libraries help build neighborhoods, facilitate civic and community engagement, improve residents' lives, and foster loyalty and pride in the community – Rashad Young, city manager, Alexandria, Virginia
  • The public library as a center for immigrant integration – Hartford Public Library CEO Matt Poland and Multicultural Services Director Homa Naficy
  • The vital role libraries play in ensuring that people’s voices have their rightful place in our democracy – Carolyn Lukensmeyer , Executive Director, National Institute for Civil Discourse and founder and former President of AmericaSpeaks

The special issue builds on ULC’s sustained work to leverage the trusted role of the public library in the community to support and encourage active and productive civic engagement.

"These articles document remarkable efforts to build strong civic foundations, engage people in public decision-making, invest in sustained civic vitality, and find hope after a tragedy," Benton said. "And, the common denominator is the public library."

Copies of the magazine are available from the National Civic League, 1889 York Street, Denver, Colorado 80206 or by contacting Michael McGrath at


About Urban Libraries Council
Urban Libraries Council
, founded in 1971, is a membership association of leading public library systems in the United States and Canada.  ULC strategically advances the value that 21st century libraries provide communities in critical areas such as civic engagement, education, lifelong learning, workforce and economic development, public safety, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

About National Civic Review
National Civic Review, the quarterly journal of the National Civic League, is one of the nation's oldest civic affairs journals. Now in its 99th year of publication, the Review features thoughtful essays on democratic governance and civic engagement. The journal is published for NCL by Jossey-Bass Publishing. The Review is a vital supplement to the information flow of decision makers, researchers, students, and educators across the country.

National Civic Review Special Edition: Public Libraries and Civic Engagement
Table of Contents

From Books to Community: The Changing Value of Public Libraries
Patrick Losinski, CEO, Columbus, Ohio, Metropolitan Library

Investing in Civic Engagement and Public Libraries: A Roundtable Discussion with Paula Ellis, Deborah Jacobs, and Julia Stasch

Libraries and Civic Engagement: Finding Hope After Tragedy
George "Skip" Noe, City Manager, Aurora, Colorado

Public Libraries and the Future of Democracy
Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, Executive Director, National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona

Working Together to Close the Civic Engagement Gap: The Saint Paul Story
Chris Coleman, Mayor, Saint Paul
Kit Hadley, Director, Saint Paul Public Library

PLACE Making: The Arlington Way
Mary Hughes Hynes, 2012 Chair, Arlington, Virginia, County Board
Diane Kresh, Director, Arlington, Virginia, Public Library

Engaged Libraries Leading the Way
Christine Becker, President, Christine Becker Associates

Library Trustees as Community Connectors
Keith Simmons, Chair, Library Board of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville
Kent Oliver, Director, Nashville Public Library

The American Place at Hartford Public Library: Tackling Digital Citizenship
Matthew K. Poland, CEO, Hartford, Connecticut, Public Library
Homa Naficy, Multicultural Services Director, Hartford, Connecticut, Public Library

More Than Just Books: The Role of Public Libraries in Building Community and Promoting Civic Engagement
Rashad Young, City Manager, Alexandria, Virginia

YOUmedia Chicago: Connecting Youth Through Public Libraries
Brian Bannon, Commissioner, Chicago Public Library
YOUmedia Staff

YOUmedia Miami: Engaging Youth in Powerful New Ways
Raymond Santiago, Director, Miami-Dade Public Library System

Community Libraries: Let Us Praise the Last Great Civic Place
Randall H. Reid, County Manager, Sarasota, Florida

Promoting Civic Literacy and Community Building: Civic Engagement Matters at the Calgary Public Library
Gerry Meek, retired CEO, Calgary, Alberta, Public Library

Inspiring Libraries as Community Anchors
Susan Hildreth, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services

Interview with Shirley Armore, City Librarian for the Denver Public Library