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GELS: Growing Equitable Library Services

Resources related to the GELS series

Building Capacity for Community Led Libraries

Community-led planning helps increase equity, creativity, and engagement in library programs and services. But many libraries struggle with building the mindset, culture, and structures to embrace it. In this four-part interactive series, you will learn how to apply the fundamentals of community-led planning in your library. The evidence-based strategies will cover three types of change, derived from Dr. Barbakoff’s original research: inspirational, transformational, and operational. We will discuss real-world scenarios to help you use the concepts in your work. Regardless of the size, type, or readiness of your library, you can build your capacity to equitably center community. 

Dr. Audrey Barbakoff is the CEO of Co/Lab Capacity, which provides community-centered consulting for libraries and social good organizations. She has more than a decade of experience in public libraries, where she focused on community engagement and leadership. Her innovative and inclusive work has been recognized by Library Journal Movers & Shakers, the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal 40 Under 40, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the Urban Libraries Council. In addition to her MLIS, Dr. Barbakoff holds an EdD in organizational change and leadership. Her dissertation research focused on building organizational capacity for equity, diversity, and inclusion in public libraries through community-led programs. She is the author of Adults Just Wanna Have Fun: Programs for Emerging Adults and the forthcoming book Twelve Steps to a Community-Led Library. Find her at     

Building Capacity for Community-Led Libraries Part 1: Fundamentals of Community-Led Planning and Capacity Building

We will learn what community-led planning is (and isn’t), why it matters, and how to assess and grow your own organization’s capacity. 

Building Capacity for Community-Led Libraries Part 2: Inspirational Changes

We will learn about the changes that are most impactful to make first. These include DEI accountability, aligning with community goals, and investing in conceptual education.

Building Capacity for Community-Led Libraries Part 3: Transformational Changes

We will learn about changes to organizational culture and structure that increase capacity for community-led planning. These include growth mindset, psychological safety, cultural humility, self-reflection, and relationships as a valid source of knowledge. 

Building Capacity for Community-Led Libraries Part 4: Operational Changes

We will learn about changes to day-to-day operations that increase capacity for community-led planning. These include scheduling, job descriptions, and measuring and communicating success.

Community Asset Mapping

As library workers, we see many of the same people over and over again. It is quite possible that through the conversations we have and the services we provide for these familiar faces, many of us think we understand the needs of our community. What about the people we don't see? What insight might they have to help libraries better serve all members of their community?

Community Asset Mapping is an organized list of map of gifts, skills, and capacities that can be shared with a community and can include:

  • People 
  • Associations
  • Institutions
  • Physical Assets

Many of us are looking for ways to engage more deeply with the communities served by our libraries. In the below recording, we’ll walk through the concept of asset mapping as a way to reveal the undiscovered strengths that already exist in the community where the library is situated, and discuss about how to use those strengths to build new connections.

Verena Getahun is the library data coordinator at State Library Services in the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). In her role at MDE, Verena coordinates data collection and analysis for the annual report and consults with libraries on using data to communicate their value.


This project is funded by the State of Connecticut and the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Connecticut State Library. 

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