ALA Center for Civic Life



Welcome to the American Library Association’s Center for Civic Life’s new Tumblr!

The American Library Association launched the ALA Center for Civic Life (CCL) in 2010 in conjunction with the Kettering Foundation in order to promote community engagement and foster public deliberation through libraries. The Center is building the capacity of libraries and librarians to help citizens get more engaged in the civic life of their communities. Experienced moderators train librarians from different types of libraries to convene and moderate deliberative forums and frame issues of local and national concern, following the approach of the National Issues Forums Institute and other dialogue and deliberation organizations.

Center advisory board members are assessing the experience of libraries with public deliberation as part of a research agreement with the Kettering Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan research organization that asks one central question: What does it take for democracy to work as it should? The ALA Center is documenting the growing engagement of libraries with their communities and the challenges and opportunities of a nation-wide program that supports local public institutions such as libraries.

During the first year, ALA formed an advisory committee and began training moderators to convene and conduct local deliberative forums. In the second year, the Center became a hub of a network of active mentors capable of strengthening and expanding their work locally, statewide and nationally, and connecting it with other forum conveners throughout the country. A CCL Working Group surveyed and mapped libraries around the country to get a better sense of their participation in the civic life of their communities. Another Working Group launched a 4-part series of training webinars focused on convening and moderating public forums.  These webinars are now archived for free public viewing at . Members also facilitated community conversations over the course of two days at the ALA Midwinter conference in January 2012.

For many years, ALA has worked with libraries to encourage public deliberation, hosting moderator training sessions and other programs related to community building and engagement. Prior to the founding of CCL, members of the Center’s advisory committee worked with the Intellectual Freedom Roundtable to frame the issue of privacy. That framing is part of the Office of Intellectual Freedom Privacy Revolution that facilitates public dialogue about the issue of privacy.  Numerous ALA members have participated in these forums at ALA conferences, including June 2012 in Anaheim.

CCL advisory committee members continue to survey libraries around the country to get a better sense of their participation in the civic life of their communities. Librarians are urged to complete the survey so the Center can use the data to map their civic activities, highlight their important civic work, and create linkages among similarly minded local and national groups. For more details about the involvement of libraries in civic life, see the 2012 article: “Libraries and Civic Engagement.”

The ALA Center for Civic Life has partnered with a number of civic organizations to foster community engagement; among them: the American Democracy Project (AASCU); America Speaks; the Urban Libraries Council; and Journalism that Matters. CCL will continue to identify local partners involved with civic life as well as link up with national organizations pursuing similar civic goals.

For more information, contact Mary Ghikas,, ALA Senior Associate Executive Director or Nancy Kranich,, founder and Chair of the ALA Center for Civic Life Advisory Committee.