Roadmap for the community librarian


The fictional character is Sascha. Sascha is thirty years old and has been working as a program designer at the main office of Library De Sleutel for three years. In addition to the Central Library, the Library has three smaller branch offices in the three surrounding villages. 

Follow Sacha’s route

  • 1
  • 2
    The organization and me
  • 3
    Go out and meet people
  • 4
    The outside world and me
  • 5
    Possible intermediate step: the POST-O
  • 6
    Knowledge creation
  • 7
    Make a project plan
  • 8
    And now? Hold the community

This is Sascha

Her workplace has already taken various initiatives to increase the employees sense of ownership and to create more cohesion within the organisation itself. After all, the organization aims to head in a different direction when it comes to involving the residents of the municipalities in the organization instead of  generating a pre-fabricated programming and standard repository. The organization is in transition from being an assembly line lending factory, to a meeting place where the young and the old exchange knowledge. 

A new challenge

How does Sascha play part in this? She enthuses and infuses her colleagues with this new way of thinking. At the same time, she attracts and binds (new) target groups to the library. Sascha loves to take on this challenge in light of exploring her own possibilities, as well as offering new perspectives to the organization.

The search begins

She starts her search on Google and types in words like: "library", "connect" and "target audience". She soon comes across the terms "communities", "Community Librarian" and "librarian of the future". It is a lot of information to take in as she discovers all kinds of different perspectives on this theme. 

Why this Roadmap?

Of course, Sascha is not the only person in the library field to do some research on this subject and she sure isn’t the only one to get overwhelmed by the tons of possibilities concerning community librarianship. Therefore, Cubiss has developed a roadmap to organise the many facets, possibilities, tips, tops and tools. This way it is much easier to get started. 

First of all, let’s state clearly that this roadmap is, by no means, an equivalent of the Community Librarian educational program. It is merely a first step. A tool to guide you through the many possibilities. If you are looking for more background information, depth, extra literature and/or personal development, we recommend you to sign up for the Community Librarian educational program. 

Moreover, this roadmap does not pretend to be a substitute for any methodologies or heritage of any sorts. The roadmap has simply become a collection of tools, insights, methodologies and (limited quantity of available) literature.

Community Librarian educational program

The post-graduate course from Cubiss to Community Librarian is designed according to the ideas of "library innovator" David Lankes. In this training you will be prepared for the task of taking your library with you in its new role. In approximately twenty sessions of the class you will work on various themes, including citizen participation, democratization, collection 2.0, philosophy and science.

The post-graduate educational program for becoming a Community Librarian, offered by Cubiss, was designed after the heritage of  “library innovator” David Lankes.  During this program, you will be prepared for the task of keeping your library on the innovation track. You will work on various themes throughout approximately twenty group sessions. These themes include citizen participation, democratization, forming collections 2.0, philosophy and science.  

"The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities."

David Lankes, 2011

As a community librarian, you connect people through conversation and by creating opportunities for them to meet each other. During their encounter, people share all kinds of knowledge. In turn, this exchange will lead to new insights, ideas, knowledge, connection and inspiration. All these outcomes are included in new conversations and encounters and are elaborated upon. At a certain moment, this knowledge can develop into a community based product (a platform, written collection, activity program, etc.) However, the basis is and remains the social connection between people. Often, people connect around a passion ("I think heritage is so interesting") or a necessity ("we have to do something about the plastic pollution in our village”).

Heading for a new library

Sascha’s organization wants to head into the direction of the New library, which is the library seen as a “third place” where people come together; a place where people exchange ideas and where they are connected to the library in certain ways. 

In the frame of Sascha’s widened perspective, she shows the documentary ‘Community Librarian’ (by Cubiss and teacher Irene Harmsen) to her closest colleagues, team leader and management

The documentary community librarian by Cubiss and Irene Hermsen

This first step is one of great importance. Without a shared vision by you, your management and your colleagues, you might as well be crossing the Atlantic in a rubber lifeboat.  Shared trust and support are necessary to prevent you from getting lost out there. This roadmap is aiming at librarians that want to develop themselves from individuals to community librarians. Probiblio has created and developed a wonderful document and tools that are focused on the library’s internal processes. ProBiblio uses six building blocks to mobilize a community library

About Community Library (ProBiblio)

About Community Library (ProBiblio)

In an ever changing society, many libraries are transitioning into a social-educational library. This transition requires the library to take on a new role: the library feels the need and the necessity to relate itself more closely to the surrounding community. With this being said, how does one go about this? The answer is: by joining forces with the community (the public and partners from the field) in order to extend knowledge and by sharing this knowledge by means of community building. This way, as a library you add value to the community in times where sources of knowledge are no longer scarce due to the arrival of the internet. Additionally, you focus on demand rather than on being supply-oriented. 

The libraries participating in this project learn about what it takes to be a Community Library and which position the organization claims in that area. ProBiblio discusses the building blocks that make up the Community Library. For example, an innovation program is set up to enable libraries to work with communities in a successful and sustainable way. - ProBiblio

Reading tips

 The organization and me

Sascha has been working diligently for several weeks now to read all about community librarianship and connection management. She showed the documentary to the people from the organization, but she still feels that her colleagues do not really know what she is doing now that she has been assigned such a new role.

And to be honest, it is also quite difficult to explain exactly what you do in the initial phase or what can be achieved. After all, you need space to experiment. Are you experiencing some difficulties with convincing your colleagues you’re really on to something? 

These tips will make this task more concrete:

  • Take a look at your organization’s policy plan. What does it say about community librarianship? Maybe it doesn’t say so specifically, but what can you read between the lines? Connect all around? Collaborations? Demand and joined efforts?

  • The next step is to organize a meeting between you and a couple of colleagues to discuss these new roles and approaches. Explain to them what the foundation of the policy is and how you are interpreting the policy in this initial phase. Also, ask your colleagues for advice and if they want to brainstorm with you. You will profit from inviting both "supporters and opponents" to such an informal conversation. This way, you will develop a specific team of people who, together with you, are the pioneers in the organization around community librarianship.

  • Discuss it with your superior if you are unsure of your impact and influence on certain situations and if whether or not you add any value to certain situations, people and groups. Write down how you envision your role. This can help you to provide insight for students into how many parts you can actually have an impact on.

Reading tips

  • Verbaal Meesterschap – Remco Claassen (EAN nummer: 9789049103927)

 The outside world and me

In the meanwhile, Sascha has read up on community librarianship. She has spoken to her colleagues and at this point she has figured out for herself how to make an impact. Sascha will continue to look for target groups the library can serve or that can be of great value to the library in return. Furthermore, she will look at target groups that are already being taken into consideration and among which themes these groups are categorized. 

Discover your surroundings and ask yourself and your colleagues the following question:

  • What is happening in my city/town?
  • What type of associations or organisations are there in my city/town?
  • What are the three most important social themes that are of interest to the municipality (and hopefully also to other partners)? 
  • Within those events, partners and themes, how much room is there for the desire and need to stay in contact with people? 
  • Do I already have a target group in mind? 

A brief introduction taken from the document:


Nina Simon is the founder of OF/BY/FOR ALL and former director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH), where she stood at the head of an institutional turnaround that was based on local participation of the community. She uses her experience as an author, change manager and activist to develop and strengthen the OF/BY/FOR ALL movement worldwide.

Nina is the driving force behind the OF / BY / FOR ALL network. Their mission is to expand the movement of change makers around the world.

Those change makers are people who genuinely know how to involve new communities in their (cultural) activities while being guided by this simple principle:


Those who want to work for a community (FOR) and who want to reach that community to the fullest extent, will succeed best if (representatives of) that community are also at the wheel (OR) and in other words there is ownership, and if the intended actions are also realized by (BY) that community.

Bernou Ozinga  like a number of other POI & library staff, was present at the two-day bootcamp OF / BY / FOR ALL organized by the KB in the fall of 2019. Just like the others, Bernou was so inspired by this way of thinking that she translated the document into Dutch and she appropriated it to the Dutch situation.

Bootcamp Biblionet Groningen

Biblionet Groningen has developed a one-day bootcamp based on the two-day bootcamp OF / BY / FOR ALL - organized by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. This hands-on interactive bootcamp provides a basis for the OF / BY / FOR ALL ideas and immediately translates it into Dutch practice. It is a practical addition to the document of Bernou Ozinga (FERS).

Manon Kromhout
Community Librarian
Bibliotheek Kerkrade

Manon Kromhout works as a Community Librarian at Library Kerkrade. She explains what she thinks is the most important step in the process and she tells us what she learned the most during her studies.

“It is my opinion that the collaboration with communities can be established in two ways:

  • As a librarian, you are involved in an initiative that is already taken up by the community you work in. 
  • As a librarian, you want to develop communities in order to meet the needs of the people. 

In both ways, it is, in my opinion, important to do preliminary research. You do not just work with communities on the side. It can have a (significant) impact on the organization, especially if the organization is used to organizing activities for people instead of in collaboration with people. It is also good to have a discussion within the organization about what the definition of a community is. Especially if you, as a library, want to develop communities.

I think that as a community librarian you can only focus on listening to your surroundings (people in your municipality, organisation) and on making a connection with them. By involving your surroundings in the organisation of activities, you create an opportunity for a community to come into existence. Don’t think that it’s enough to pile up some people and call them a community when you want them to actually take  on responsibilities and experience equal ownership within the community. 

Foto: Jessica Frembgen

To realise these things, you need to make a connection. It can be a connection to a theme, a connection to the organisation and most of all a connection to each other. One cannot force people to make these connections, but one can stimulate them.

 Talk to:

  • Your own library
  • The people who come there
  • The organisations that are active in the municipality 
  • The municipality

and investigate what is going on, what the themes are and where the leads are. What are the needs and wishes of these people / organizations / groups? My tip: check with yourself which communities / groups you are involved in. What is it that you like about them? What makes you decide to become involved or not? This can help you to empathize with your (still to be developed) community."

Questions Manon asked herself in her research are:


  • What is the library’s vision?
  • What are the library’s goals? 
  • What do your colleagues think about working with communities? 
  • Is there room within the library’s policy for developing/joining communities? 
  • Is there sufficient knowledge and skill to work with/build communities?|

You as a professional

  • Where lies your interest? 
  • What do you want to contribute to your municipality and the library you work at?


  • Which (social) themes are relevant in the municipality?
  • Which assignment has the municipality given the library?


  • What is relevant to the library’s visitors?
  • Are there existing activities that can be deepened by putting more focus on community building?
  • Which people from the city can’t be found in the library?

Community by definition

  • When is a group of people a community?
  • What are the requirements for a community? 
  • Should a community continue to function without the support of the library? 
  • Which role do(es) the communit(ies)y have?

You don't have to answer these questions by yourself. 
Call in the help of your marketing communication advisor or ask your POI for advice.

Tools for an analysis of your target group or area:

  • The KB provides the library organisation with access to Mosaic. This is a tool that one can use to get insight into the diversity of inhabitants and their (stereo)typification. It is a very basic tool and by no means a guideline.  

  • You can make a force field analysis to find out around which theme most stakeholders and even the opponents are situated. The trick is to get these two groups to engage in conversation in order to shed light on every aspect of the theme.

  • If you want to take it even further, you can also develop personas. Personas are lively and descriptive fictional characters that are based on real people from your target group. 

Reading tip

 Go out and meet people

Sascha has mapped out her internal organisation and she has looked at various projects, target groups and themes from her direct surroundings. Together with her colleagues, Sascha chooses a particular theme and she starts a dialogue with the target group. Sascha’s experience has taught her that these dialogues can take on various forms (individual or group talks). 

  • The conversation techniques from the OF / BY / FOR ALL method will provide you with good conversation starters and various conversation techniques. This will keep you from immediately taking on the helping role – which is typically librarian – but instead you really listen first and you learn to ask questions. This is the only way you will be able to discover the needs, values, knowledge and intentions of the target group. You will also get tools to help you come to concrete terms with each other so that it becomes a mutual agreement and not just terms that are only supported by the library.


  • Make a short report of these conversations with the (action) points discussed. Discuss with your team what you can tackle together (internally) and feed this back to your conversation partner (s). See what can be set up together. It is important that you guarantee shared ownership of a theme from the start. When you as an individual person are the driving force behind a group, shared ownership will never arise because people will always fall back on you.

  • At the end of these conversations, write a short report on the points (of action) that were discussed. Discuss with your team what you can tackle together (internally) and ask for feedback from your conversation partner(s). Have a look at what you can set up together. It Is very important that you first establish the shared ownership of the theme. When you are the only driving force behind an entire group of people, ownership will not be taken up by others because people will always rely on you to do the work. 

The principle of the KennisCloud method is: working with communities. As a library you can share your network with the communities so that knowledge can be found and unlocked in new places. Furthermore, the principle is based on creating room for unexpected meetings in a cycle of on- and offline contacts. 

KennisCloud is mostly known for its online platform, but it is so much more than an online meeting place. If you would like more information about KennisCLoud, don’t hesitate to contact Jantien Borsboom from Bibliotheek Midden-Brabant:

 Possible intermediate step: the POST-O

Sascha has mapped out her target group and she has had quite a lot of conversations with members of the group. While doing so, she finds out that – despite all the preparations and enthusiasm – not every conversation delivers. This is not a bad thing. An acquaintance like this might not result in concrete plans or it might not show much commitment from the participants yet, but it may at a later stage. Besides, Sascha now knows many more people from her surroundings.  

Sascha is very active in the work field and she thinks that the organisation should safeguard her role as a community librarian. She talks to her supervisor and director. For this she prepares a POST (O) analysis. This way, she translates practice into theory by means of analysis. 

Let’s first state that continuing to experiment, to make conversation and to seek out trial and error are things that are of great importance to our cause. These practical strategies should never be overruled by paper documents that are full of theoretical strategies. It can be a moment of reflection to go from strategy to real life practice. Theoretical strategy is often a useful tool for the management because it allows them to get a clear perspective on how the experimentation is taking place in real life. 

You can develop such a strategy by using the POST method of Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. POST stands for: People (people), Objectives (goals), Strategy (strategy) and Technology (technology). You can expand this strategy with an Organization.

The POST method

People: The characteristics of the target group are mapped out in order to analyze the members’ online and offline participation behavior. A participant who is digitally unskilled is less likely to use a social media platform. Make sure you pick the right platform and/or a fitting way of communicating for the target group. 

Objectives: it is important to set apart the library’s goal and the target group’s goal (derived from its members’ needs) in order to establish a common goal. During this process, write down the expectations and the participants’ roles within the target group. 

Strategy: determine the positioning of social media, set apart the activity program and channel this to the people in the community. 

Technology: indicate which resources and technology you need to facilitate your community.

  • Tools for online communication with the target group: e.g. Facebook, Mighty networks, blogging, vlogging etc.

Organization: Describe, as clearly as possible, the impact the community has on the organization. A community that expresses itself through a program council that provides input concerning the programming of a local office branch will have a different impact than a community that consists of cooperating partners that focus on illiteracy in babies.  

It is good when every part of the POST method has been thought through. However, it should not become a fill-in-the-blank exercise. Stay in touch with your target group and adjust it along the way. It is especially good to learn about community management.


  • Meld je aan bij de Facebookgroep van BIND community building. Zij maken verschil in diverse soorten communities zoals community of practice, community of interest, community of place, etc. 
  • Organiseren van communities – Peter Staal en Kirsten Wagenaar (EAN: 9789463191982)

 Knowledge creation

Sascha has continued having conversations with her target group and the connection is getting stronger. Besides connecting people and bringing them together, Sascha knows that creating knowledge is also part of the community(librarian)’s job. 

Sascha reads about a cyclus that consists of shared activity; knowledge creation; shared ownership and social impact in the book Atlas, by David Lankes. 

Often, a shared activity or a shared topic is the starting point of your community. Actively working together leads to the creation of new knowledge. This creation of knowledge and the working mode eventually will lead to shared ownership, which is of great importance to the community’s sustainability. Shared ownership is not something you can impose on the group. You can’t put pressure on people to feel a certain way nor does it make sense to have certain expectations in advance. Shared ownership comes from group members themselves, because they experience a certain degree of freedom within the community. 

Once this shared ownership is ensured, the social impact of the community can grow. This impact will ultimately demonstrate the community’s societal value. However, social impact is not the final stage. People will join the community because they can see what’s going on. As a result, people start partaking in the same activity and that’s how the whole cycle starts again. 

The creation of knowledge is not the ultimate goal. You are in a cycle in which you keep creating connections between people and groups.

4 separate small compartments:

According to Lankes, the creation of knowledge and a knowledge cycle depend on four components:

1 • Access: the facilitating of conversations between members of a community and getting members to interact with sources of knowledge. These sources can be books, magazines, art objects and other materials, but also video clips on the internet or experts that are willing to share their knowledge, and, above all: each other. 

3 • Surroundings: a place where members of the community feel safe and comfortable enough to start working together. 

2 • Knowledge: what you should know about a certain topic to be able to have a substantial conversation with a group of people. This is about being equipped with the right form of expertise, whether this is a speaker, a video or a collection of books and websites from the collection. 

4 • Motivation: showing understanding, encouraging participation and sometimes also slowing down people who are too enthusiastic or disrupt the process in some other way.

Together with her target group, Sascha maps out these four components during a brainstorm session with one of the partners. During this session, Sascha makes sure that shared interests and differences are being discussed and that the members set goals that they want to achieve together. Sascha works out the ideas by means of a project plan that clearly describes who will take on which tasks

 Make a project plan

Sascha thinks it’s important to record the activities or ideas that the community will carry out in a project plan. This way, she ensures the safeguarding and the continuity of the community. The management will always be informed about the community’s costs and yields. Without a project plan, Sascha would be working without a goal and results. She would have no idea whether her endeavours were successful or not. 

You set your goals together with your community: you create shared ownership and all of you are responsible.

Every library has its own action plan and format for project plans. Take advantage of that!

Or get inspired by the following tips:

  • Online Communities: Buzzing Communities - How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities - Richard Middleton

 And now what? Hold on to the community

Sascha has come a long way, from bringing management along and conducting research,  to conducting conversations. She has gathered a group of people who contribute and develop ideas that spring from their own passion. A successful move, she thinks. At the same time, Sascha notices that a lot people expect her to initiate and organize everything. 

She has written a few things down about continuation and the retaining of the community in her project plans, but how does she put this into practice?

That’s possibly the hardest aspect of a community. How can you continue to motivate the participants to keep taking part in the activities? This has everything to do with shared ownership. When this is done by one or two people from the start, a community keeps on relying on these people. At this point, it is extremely difficult to build the community and let it go without it "collapsing".

It is important to keep on engaging people into conversation and to keep on listening. 

Make it clear to people that you have taken on a facilitating role and that you are making your network available to them. You are creating room for improvement and you are transferring passion. Stay motivated and passionate yourself about acquiring new knowledge. This is the only way your community will stay on its feet. A community requires a continuous stream of new impulses and energy.  

In short, don’t lose sight of your contact moments. Plan them structurally, for example.

Hetty de Groot of Helmond-Peel Library has found a great community to which she is affiliated as an account manager programming. She is a member of the steering committee and facilitates, among other things, the space of the library, she shares her knowledge about current topics that concern the community, and keeps up with trends. She is also the point of contact for new ideas.

“First of all, the training taught me not to work in a supply-oriented way, but to really search for and see what is going on in your community / city / town and to relate to it. As libraries, we are strongly inclined to think from our range and collection. This is dangerous because we think we know what the people need. This makes the community feel like the collection isn’t theirs, but merely a showpiece of the library.

Of course, you can use your collection when the aim is to spread and extend knowledge, but that’s for a later moment in time.  


It took me a long time to find a topic. Especially because I had to feel involved myself. During this process you really need your employer to give you the freedom to look beyond the library institution. The feeling of involvement is/was essential to me, for the most part because setting up and maintaining a community takes a lot of time and perseverance and going through that process should give you a positive feeling.  

In my research, I came across a very recent platform on which citizens could post new ideas to improve the quality of life in their town. This platform was designed by young adolescents on behalf of the municipality. It was just a platform / suggestion box, nothing more. Nevertheless, it was a perfect starting point for me to discover what was going on in that town. 

I approached the people that had supervised this project. This brought me into contact with several people, amongst whom the citizens that had already posted some ideas on the platform. I engaged into conversation with them and soon a movement of citizens from different layers of society came about. These citizens wanted to set up a participation movement together, called ‘Samen voor Someren’. 

Hetty de Groot van Bibliotheek Helmond-Peel

It wasn’t long until the conversations were taking place at the library. The equality between participants, the enthusiasm and the sense that everyone was able to contribute to the group were the main reasons that Samen voor Someren has gone through such a strong development. People are really taking a hands-on approach. We are in close contact with the officiaries and the counsellor of Someren. We keep them close. This, in turn, has a positive effect on how the municipality credits the library of Someren. 

As a library, we contribute by means of knowledge sharing, knowledge creation and facilitating meetings and gatherings. The group is fully responsible for the ideas. Our responsibility as a library is to make sure that the circumstances allow the members of the group to feel like they are capable of developing ideas together with us. I supply information that I can find in my network. I use my contacts to get speakers on certain topics and I make our building available for activities. This way, no cost have to be made concerning room rental and the like. Naturally, this has the positive side effect that more residents of Someren make their way over to the library.

Sascha has got her community on track and she will stay involved in the process. Setting up or joining a community takes time, energy and a lot of perseverance. There also has to be room for trial and error. Sascha intends to share and evaluate the initiatives, improvements and potential failures with her supervisor and the entire team. This way, the heritage of the community librarian will be spread amongst the people within the organisation and other colleagues can continue Sascha´s journey. 


This publication is an initiative from Cubiss, for Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands

Author: Marly Sengers

Translation: Nicky Boekesteijn

Editor: Swaans Communicatie

Concept, creation and realization: - Eindhoven

Sacha's roadmap

  • 1
  • 2
    The organization and me
  • 3
    Go out and meet people
  • 4
    The outside world and me
  • 5
    Possible intermediate step: the POST-O
  • 6
    Knowledge creation
  • 7
    Make a project plan
  • 8
    And now what? Hold on to the community