Strategic Planning Prioritizes Community Connections

By Community-Centered Libraries Mon, January 14, 2019

You’ve been reading about how libraries are increasingly moving beyond our brick and mortar structures and into the communities we serve, but how, you might ask, does this work reflect back to the strategic direction of the Free Library? Good question!

In July, the Free Library launched its new 2018 – 2020 Strategic Plan with the overarching goals to build a culture of literacy in Philadelphia, deliver an exceptional customer experience, and embrace creativity and innovation. We think it’s so great we even made a video about it!

At the core of this work is the recognition that success in all three areas is contingent on connecting with communities in deeper and more meaningful ways. It’s an exciting journey for us, and one that recognizes that libraries are no longer just repositories for books, but are here, in all our neighborhoods, to serve as community hubs and to lend voice to resident needs and aspirations. Leading us in this new direction is the work our exceptional staff put in each and every day.

From lending bike locks and responding to the opioid crisis at McPherson Square Library to supporting recent Puerto Rican arrivals displaced by Hurricane Maria with a free produce market at Lillian Marrero Library, our staff actively listen to the needs of community, which in turn has informed new initiatives, programming, and services.

In our North Central Cluster, a Community Council made up of resident stakeholders and area organizations meets monthly to develop new collaborations and will celebrate their second annual Community Champions Awards later this spring. In Southwest Philadelphia, the Paschalville Library is engaged in a collective impact initiative meant to connect local job seekers to workforce development opportunities.

Each of these examples relates directly to the Free Library’s new Strategic Plan and aligns with specific objectives such as:

  • Nurture mission-driven partnerships and implement engagement strategies that advance the Free Library’s ongoing response to community needs
  • Engage communities to identify their needs and best means to address them
  • Foster leadership, partnerships, and creativity that can lead to new opportunities

This emphasis on community is a clear priority for the Free Library, and one that resonates nationally as well. We’re thrilled to have received the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop and pilot our Community-Centered Libraries initiative.  We are already seeing staff practicing and expanding their skills, and building new community connections, and will continue to feature this work in upcoming blog posts.


This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [Grant #RE-95-17-0089-17].

Parkway Central Library
Parkway Central Library
Job seekers at Paschalville Library
Job seekers at Paschalville Library
Fresh produce
Fresh produce

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