Reclaiming Main Street Through Our Public Libraries

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The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to Launch Library-Hosted Tour

Once upon a time, libraries were the country’s widespread gateway for free access to information that could open up worlds of opportunity to all. Now, many libraries across the country struggle with basic funding to keep the lights on.

Starting this week, more than 20,000 librarians and leaders from the American Library Association will descend on Chicago to attend the organization’s 137th annual convention, a week-long extravaganza that will bring together a who’s-who of luminaries ranging from author and activist Alice Walker to filmmaker Oliver Stone.

One of the panels will feature community change expert Rich Harwood, founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, who will address the ability of libraries to transform communities and remind us that change is possible with the right setting and the right tools. The Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit focuses on community change, teaching and coaching people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together.

The ALA’s gathering should remind people that libraries not only are important to our nation’s well-being, but stand as a ready-made vehicle for hosting members of the community when they come together to address their needs, challenges and hopes for the future.

To that same end, The Harwood Institute this fall will launch a months-long tour of libraries across the country. The tour is intended to highlight the centrality of libraries to community life and show that through our libraries we can, in fact, reclaim Main Street.

The Institute will bring together people from a broad cross-section of each community to meet and discuss their challenges and aspirations and begin the process of showing communities how they can change and work together for the common good. The Harwood Institute tour will help demonstrate the fundamental role of libraries in transforming communities.

Just as libraries nationwide get a jumpstart from within at the American Library Association’s annual conference this week, the Harwood Institute’s upcoming tour will serve as a reminder that libraries are vital to the health of individuals, families and our communities.

More about Rich Harwood

Rich Harwood is the founder and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a national nonprofit organization that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together.

Rich’s transformational work has spread to thousands of communities nationally and worldwide – from small towns to large cities – by applying concrete methods he created and honed over the past 25 years. These proven practices are based on hands-on work with individuals, organizations and communities in their quest to create change. Rich's talks, coaching techniques and practical guides have provided the hope and inspiration for individuals and groups to improve their public and private lives.

A visionary with the ability to help people identify obstacles and tap their aspirations, Rich has inspired hundreds of audiences as he shares his philosophy of what it takes to be relevant and connected in today's world. Rich is also a prolific author whose books and guides include The Work of Hope: How Individuals and Organizations Can Authentically Do Good; Hope Unraveled; Make Hope Real; and Why We’re Here: The Powerful Impact of Public Broadcasters When They Turn Outward.

He has also written numerous studies and articles that chronicle the most vital issues of our time, and has appeared on national media including MSNBC, NPR, CNN's Inside Politics, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Special Report with Brit Hume and C-SPAN. Learn more about Rich and his inspirational personal journey.

Rich Harwood, rharwood(at)theharwoodinstitute(dot)org; 301-656-3669
Jennifer Packer, jpacker(at)theharwoodinstitute(dot)org, 301-656-3669

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