Harwood Institute in American Libraries Magazine about Cohorts

10 library district cohorts train to listen and connect
By Bailey Brewer
January 22, 2015

When Erica Freudenberger, director of the Red Hook (N.Y.) Public Library, set out to make change in her community, she knew she couldn’t do it alone—she would need the community itself to help her. And though her community is small—1,900 people inhabit the village of Red Hook—it has proven itself mighty, making changes that community members have wanted to see for many years.

Of course it wasn’t Freudenberger and the community alone who made these changes happen; it was thanks in part to an initiative called Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), which launched a program in April 2014 involving 10 library districts. The initiative is the result of a partnership between the American Library Association and the Bethesda, Maryland–based Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, and it focuses on how libraries can turn outward to their communities for input and inspiration.

When Freudenberger and a mix of four library volunteers, staff, and an intern—combined into what is called a “cohort”—first started brainstorming on approaching community members to get insight on how to raise the quality of life, one member suggested going door-to-door. Brent Kovalchik, deputy mayor of the village as well as a member of the cohort, found that people feel less intimidated on their own turf. So the team hit the pavement and started talking to neighbors to discover their hopes for Red Hook.

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