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Community Engagement Toolkit

Designed for libraries to explore community engagement


  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to community engagement. Each community is unique. Therefore, flexibility and adaptation are necessary.
  • When planning and executing community engagement, avoid being too prescriptive or procedural – engagement needs to be in line with the values and needs of the community being served.
  • What works in one place or worked in the past may not work the same way in another time, place, or with a different community.


Strategies for Flexibility

Making Plans

Have backup plans. Set realistic goals and be prepared for what happens next if you do, or do not meet them.

Things to Consider:

  • What will you do if expectations or deadlines are not met?
  • What alternative approaches can you try?
  • How can you expand on the engagement if it is more successful than anticipated?

Tools to Use:

  • Planners
  • Planning software
  • Calendars
  • Knowledge of available resources
  • Relationship building

Resources for Making Plans:


Letting Community Members Lead

Let others take control and demonstrate flexibility by following their lead. Act as a facilitator or supporter. Think creatively about how to help the community reach its goals.

Things to Consider:

  • How can you bolster the community’s pre-existing strengths?
  • How can you be proactive, rather than reactive?

Tools to Use:

  • Knowledge of community member skills
  • Active listening



Flexibility requires humility and open-mindedness. It can be scary to do things differently than you have before – think about ways you can cope with that and focus on all the mutual benefits of the community engagement experience.

Things to Consider:

  • Combating bias and practicing open-mindedness
  • Coping with stress
  • Focusing on the positives and remaining persistent

Resources for Open-mindedness:


About the Toolkit

This toolkit was originally created by NLM Fellow Allison Cruise in conjunction with the Office of Engagement & Training at the National Library of Medicine. Allison Cruise spent her 2nd Fellowship Year at UNM HSLIC.