The Center of Trust: Community Resource Network

Library Community Network (LCN) consisting of representatives of nonprofit organizations that serve the community; additional members can include government representatives, and invited local citizens. Government Community Network (GCN) is a government work–group comprised of department representatives; additional members can include representatives form the public library, and invited citizens.

This plan consists of five prioritized steps that can guide local communities in creating an effective resource network.

Step 1

Create a Mission Statement

The quality of life for individuals living in a community will be affected by the health of that community. The health of a community is directly connected to the actions of its local government. A foundation for a local government can be expressed in terms of goals—what the government hopes to achieve. Stating those goals is what a mission statement does—and all local governments should have one.

Mission statements serve the same purpose for a village, town, or city government as it does for any organization: it identifies key values and priorities, and indicates the direction community actions should take. A mission statement keeps goals out front; it also opens the possibility for anyone to hold government accountable.

Changing how local governments appears to the public can be challenging for officials, who may not want to appear too casual or unprofessional. Certainly they do not want to offend anyone, therefor a middle of the road safe presentation may seem the best course to take. There are, however, consequences in maintaining what can be seen as stuffy and aloof, and behavior that will only help to assure that what is today will be tomorrow.

Step 2.
Create a Library Community Network

The library community network (LCN) relies on two administrative designs to promote collaborative efforts between resource providers, library patrons, and the local government.

Work–groups and a resource directory are significant aspects of the design, as are the inter–personal relating and resulting relationships between work–group participants, and between nonprofit staff and library staff.

One major component of this LCN process is the creation of work–groups, which are comprised of representatives from nonprofit organizations serving the local community, plus a government representative and invited citizen guests. The other is a directory of nonprofit resources. The goals are to make resources more accessible and to encourage constructive working relationships between nonprofit organizations, the local public library, and the local government.

Community Resource Directory

The directory is a comprehensive listing of services and activities that are provided by government departments, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who have skills and experiences to share. The activity of creating and maintaining a resource directory enables closer relationships between resource providers, the library, and the community.

Resources are made more visible, and the directory provides a path the library (reference librarian) can follow in establishing relationships with community resource providers.

In other words, a resource listing does not end with a directory, it begins with one.

The directory:

  • Promotes closer working relationships between local nonprofits, citizens, and government;
  • Increases resource visibility for citizens;
  • Enables the possibility for program collaboration between nonprofits, and between nonprofits and local government.

Step 3.
Sponsor a Resource Festival

Sponsored by the local public library, a resource festival literally brings people into contact with the services and activities that nonprofit organizations offer to the community. It can be held anywhere there is suitable space and can include typical festival activities—food kiosks and entertainment.

It’s the perfect environment to offer information plus sign-up tables for emergency services and any other services that are dependent on volunteers.

Step 4.
Create a Government Department Network

This network consists work–groups that consist of representatives of government departments, plus those invited to attend from the local public library, nonprofit resource providers, and citizens.

Government networks already exist in various forms: people talk and email after attending meetings; local governments use phone–trees and email notification services; websites document meetings and provide information regarding departments activities; and citizens contact elected officials. Also, governments have trustee and other department meetings where they can invite expert testimony; meetings are often open to the public or available for viewing through video recordings.

Meetings, phone–trees, websites, and online viewing provide necessary connections to the community, however these will not produce the same results as a dedicated network committed to collaboration with government departments, the public library, nonprofit services and activities, and local citizens.

Like the LCN, the GCN is centered on outreach, communicating an inviting and friendly atmosphere, one that is backed up by commitments made in a mission statement.

Step 5.
Encourage Collaboration

A community resource network (CRN) is by nature collaborative because one of its basic requirements is for personal interaction. And personal interaction can be contagious: just talking about collaboration can itself cause a shift in perspective and inspire new ways of approaching issues.

Anything that increases interpersonal connecting on a community level can inspire interactions that lead to collaborative efforts. Increased participation raises awareness, which attracts attention, which increases participation: networking and collaboration are reciprocal.

When the local public library has established ongoing relationships with organizations providing activities and services to the community, and the local government has established a work–group management style with its departments and other resource providers, the time may be right to establish communication pathways between the two networked groups—the LCN and GCN.