Public Libraries as Platforms for Civic Engagement


What role should the world’s public libraries have in civic engagement? In recent years, traditional media have weakened, the civic space has become increasingly divisive, and society has become ever more divided socially, economically and politically, yet public libraries have stood strong. They have long fulfilled a vital need for communal spaces where people can engage and exchange ideas and served as a “civic commons” where people can work together toward what they perceive as the public good. With democracy in crisis in many parts of the world, public libraries and librarians are asking how they can re-envision and nourish the role of libraries in promoting civic engagement. To this end, the University of Washington Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab invited a select group of thought leaders for a conversation aimed at sparking new ideas and solutions for global action. This gathering brought together a cross-section of leading thinkers from public libraries, civic media, collective action, peace building, the arts, media and data literacies, civic technology, gaming, and other fields, to explore ideas and practices to advance civic engagement. This report documents the discussions of this event.

Recommended Citation

Coward, C., McClay, C., Garrido, M. (2018). Public libraries as platforms for civic engagement. Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School.

Quick Facts


Publication Type

  • Research Report

Publication Date

  • May, 2018

Download Publication