Friday, December 30, 2005

My civic library idea

A few months back I emailed this idea to the Olympia City Council. I haven't heard much feeback, other than they're thinking along these lines during their council retreat next month. I'm wondering if anyone out there has any feedback.

Civic Olympia Library Project

The purpose of this proposal is to outline why the Olympia Library Board should be reestablished to:

1. Build on the already existing “town hall” meetings to create
dialog within the city;
2. broaden our community's civic discourse;
3. and, establish the Olympia Library as a center of non-partisan
civic involvement.

Despite being the largest city in the Timberland Library system, Olympia does not have an active Library Board. Other similar-sized cities, (Lacey and Tumwater, for example) have active boards that act as intermediaries between their city councils' and the system-wide Timberland Library Board.

In addition to fulfilling the roll of ambassador between the city and library system, the Olympia Library Board should be established as a “working board” to plan and carry out regular town meetings and topic-based public forums.

The Olympia Library Board civic dialog effort would build on the success of city's existing and successful town meetings. These efforts can be expanded on through the library by hosting topic based discussions, public forums and lectures.

There has been recent discussion on how libraries, as welcoming institutions in the civic tapestry, can fill the void of civic dialog and engagement. American public libraries were originally established to provide for general education to help citizens become well-informed. The Olympia Library can start broadening civic dialog by hosting non-partisan, educational forums. The attached readings speak for themselves, but here are two examples of ongoing library-based civic projects:

Johnson County (KS) Library "Community Issues 101"

Lawrence (KS) Public Library Forums:

To Inform Democracy, by John N. Berry III, Editor-in-Chief
From "Library Journal," November 15, 2004

Can Libraries Save Democracy? by Michael Baldwin
From “Library Journal,” October 15, 2002

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