NNYLN offered a special training opportunity in 2019

Sustainable libraries begin with thriving communities. The Northern New York Library Network is implementing a project-based training program for library-community partner teams to work together in a year-long fellowship. Each team will be guided through a curriculum called Communities + Libraries, developed and tested by library system colleagues in New York State. The curriculum is designed to build the trust, the relational networks, and the mindset to help an organization adapt to a more community-centric, outreach-oriented service model. Fellows will learn the tools and practice the methods that facilitate true collaboration, where multiple perspectives are incorporated into decision-making processes, projects are well-managed to stay on track, and success is defined by an impact on local social well-being.

A Fellowship term will begin in October 2019 and last one year. Each team has at least one library person and at least one community partner – both of whom are able to participate in all sessions (schedule below). The curriculum prompts teams to work from a perspective which values inclusion, diversity, and the local environment. The term will include:

  • Four in-person full-day sessions*:

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

  • Monthly cohort phone-calls with other fellows (about 1 hour).
  • Each team has a mentor with whom they have regular (near weekly) contact.
  • Asynchronous learning through readings, listenings, viewings and/or actions between sessions.

On a weekly basis, fellows should expect to spend 4-7 hours working on tasks related to this program. We understand that represents quite a commitment, a lot of effort, and it may involve some discomfort. It is designed for the individual who is immensely proud of the library  profession and wants to be a part of its evolution; who is immensely proud of the work they do, and is ready to push harder on the role and impact they can achieve locally. The work you put into the program will pay off personally and professionally, and you are certain to make a positive impact on your community. 

*Travel and meals will be covered for each team member. No overnight travel should be necessary. If you’re concerned there are costs you or your partner would incur that your organizations would not be able to afford, please apply and we’ll see what we can work out.

A Network Fellowship is an immersive training program which takes library-community partner teams through a community-first project design and implementation process. Teams consist of a library/museum/info staff member and at least one community partner. The community partner is a full and equal partner from start to finish: an application is submitted as a team focused on one community. We must also add that this is not just for directors and CEOs. Leadership can happen from anywhere in an organization. We’ll want to know that our fellows’ organizations agree.

The program is project-based: participants immediately apply what they learn. The work reinforces long-term, community-engaged, systemic, responsible thinking. Communities + Libraries core learning threads were developed by thinking through the shifts in belief, mindset, and behavior that an individual needs in order to facilitate lasting change in partnership with their organization and their community members. When these core learning threads are woven through a year of instructional interventions and mentored practice, participants in the program live through and create dynamic, positive change.

The learning threads and the beliefs in practice that shape the curriculum include:

Whole Systems

Actions which build on the strengths of the systems within which they operate will be more successful and positively impactful:

  • Socio-ecosystems
  • Nested Systems
  • Systems Actualization
  • Sustainability and Regeneration
  • Diversity and Hybrid Vigor
  • Capacity Building
  • Planning from Place

Change Agentry

For positive change to last and grow, it must be shared with others and codified in organization operations:

  • Purpose-Driven Change
  • Change Management
  • Direct Democracy
  • Leading from Anywhere
  • Empowerment
  • Policy Development

Community Engagement

Sustainable organizations require thriving communities, in which members’ culture, experiences, and agency is amplified:

  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Facilitating Collaboration
  • Public Knowledge vs. Expert Knowledge
  • Gathering Knowledge
  • Implicit Bias
  • Theming
  • Identifying Missing Voices & Inclusion
  • Aspiration-based Planning


Deep, lasting positive change happens through equitable partnership which values mutualism and reconciliation. Shared vision, values and commitment to taking action are essential to these relationships.

  • Reconciliation
  • Asset Mapping
  • MoU Writing
  • Authenticity and Empathy
  • Community Organizing
  • Communicating Vision

Project Development

Only through putting into practice the beliefs of the other four core areas can a sustainable and positively impactful project be intentionally developed:

  • Time Mapping
  • Goal Identification
  • Resource Identification
  • Grant writing
  • Implementation
  • Future Mapping

Fellows will learn the tools and practice the skills needed to:

  • Build effective, long lasting partnerships.
  • Facilitate others’ partnerships & actions; be able to build organized networks within a community working toward common interests.
  • Implement a quick turnaround project, and develop every component of a long-term project to implement with your community. 
  • Use ALA Libraries Transforming Communities tools to gather community information and translate local aspirations into projects which speak to universal needs;
  • Implement what they have learned in all aspects of their organization, including policy and procedure development, staffing, and planning.

Program participants will believe:

  • All community members are partners in community wellbeing;
  • Partnerships build capacity which benefits the community at large, including the library;
  • Whole systems thinking is the core of future decision making;
  • Strengthening local social fabric is key to sustainability.

Self-evaluation: This work takes self-awareness and reflection. Begin by assessing for your own readiness to participate. The application asks for a comment or summary of your findings.

Application: Apply as a team with your external partner by August 16th, 2019. A promising or fitting partnership should be prioritized over any particular project idea.

    The Communities + Libraries program was heavily influenced by the following organizations and resources:

    See also the Declaration of Practice we signed in agreement with the designers of the Communities+Libraries curriculum. It conveys more background on the thought and spirit of the program.

    Information sessions were held throughout the summer online via Zoom.
    Thank you for your interest!

    Applications Closed

    Applications were due August 16, 2019.

    Network Fellowships are separate from NNYLN Grants and provide no project funding.