Pathways to Belonging: To Be Seen & Feel Known Assessment

Primary author: Eli Guinnee

It is the small and repeated kindnesses that give people a sense of humanity and value.

What is in this tool?

This tool will help you think about the value of making patrons feel known in your library, and ways in which you can use personalized services to make them feel valued and appreciated.

Across communities in eight states, a high number of residents described feeling seen and known as a key reason they like living in a small town. They enjoy knowing most of the people they see on a given day, and feel comforted and secure that others are watching out for them. These same people describe how much they appreciate the personalized service they receive at their local library. We sometimes call this tailored or bespoke service, because it celebrates uniqueness and individual attention, but one interviewee best described it as “old timey.”

          The individual actions of library staff play a large role in feeling seen and known for newcomers who access library services. It is the small and repeated kindnesses that give people a sense of humanity and value. It is also these actions that build the mutual knowledge and trust required to engage people in meaningful contributions to community good.  While simple gestures of kindness and recognition have real value (eg. telling a patron that you ordered a new book from their favorite author), long term positive impact comes from practice repeated many times in different ways.

LISTEN: “My son said to me once they were out playing they were throwing softballs back and forth on the road. And of course they had to stop every time a car came by but they had to wave. My son came up and says I can’t play softball because I have to wave too much.” –Patricia, interview #5-2-10

Further Resources

Want to learn more about creating belonging in your community?  Read “Pathways to Belonging: Contribution”. Want to learn more about creating a welcoming environment at your library?  Read “Library as the Community’s Welcome Center” and “Is Everyone Welcome at Your Library”?