Engaging with the Community on Wellbeing
Primary author: Eli Guinnee
Gain a better understanding of how local residents see their own town and areas in which you might make a real difference.
What is in this tool?
- Step by step guidance on engaging with your community
- PRINT ONLY: Clipboard ready questions
WHY DO COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
When we say Community Engagement, we mean talking directly to local residents to learn more about their life, how they view their community, and how they describe a safe, happy, healthy life. This sort of information can be tremendously useful for libraries planning programs and services. Here, we are using it specifically in conjunction with the Pathways to Wellbeing Tools (www.rurallibraries.org/toolkits), which were developed from nationwide research into they ways libraries make a positive impact on social wellbeing.
HOW DOES IT WORK
This is intended to be used in one-on-one discussions with community members. It can be used in group discussion, but group discussion should not be the only way you talk to people (because group dynamics pressure people to conform and make some voices louder than others). The worksheet will help guide your discussions. For many people it is much easier to approach a stranger if you have a clipboard and a script. The more you do it, the easier it will be. The worksheet can be printed for easy note taking. Where possible, do this exercise in teams of two, with one talker and one notetaker.
WHO SHOULD DO IT
While this exercise can be done by one or two people, it really helps to have a group all doing this at the same time. Library trustees, a volunteer group, or the library staff can pair up and go out in teams of two. It is always fun to meet up afterwards and share what you have heard!
WHERE SHOULD IT BE DONE
Anywhere people are! (As long as it’s allowed and appropriate, don’t do this during the church service). The farmers market, the park, the community bbq, the book sale, anywhere you have a library table set up with people walking by.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF THE WORK
- Respect people’s time, but if they are having a good time spend as much time gaining a deeper understanding as you can with any given individual
- Don’t ask questions about the library, this is about the community. (As soon as you ask a library question, all the answers are going to be about books.) If you must ask one, leave it as the very last question.
- You do not need to follow the suggested questions verbatim. If you change or add questions, try to keep them open ended and/or leading to follow up questions.
- There is not much value in talking only with people you already know. The more the people you talk to represent a broad and diverse sample of local residents, the more they are people you do not normally talk to, the better the information will be.
- For the same reasons, you probably do not want to do this in your library.
- Do not turn this into a survey! We know you want to, but surveys will not give you the kind of information and deep understanding that talking to people will.
INTRODUCTION TO THE WORKSHEET
In conjunction with the Pathways to Wellbeing Tools (www.rurallibraries.org/toolkits), this worksheet is intended to be taken to a community gathering for one-on-one discussions. Use it to gain a better understanding of how local residents see their own town and areas in which you might make a real difference. Where possible, do this exercise in teams of two, with one talker and one notetaker. You do not need to ask questions verbatim, they are a guide, but remember you are trying to learn more about the community, not your library, so avoid library-specific questions. If time allows, ask the B questions or other follow-up questions to gain deeper understandings.