Community-Led Think Tank

Empathetic Public Libraries - Let's Do It!

Postponed – new date to be determined

Virtual Conference


Public libraries are positioned well to significantly impact users in so many ways! One way that we can collectively do this is by considering how empathy can be demonstrated in all that we do. In this presentation, you will learn about areas of library work where empathy can make a difference!  Research findings will be shared as the kickoff to thinking about intentionally bringing empathy into public libraries.

Learning Outcomes:

  • How to engage your staff in thinking more intentionally about empathy and compassion. 
  • How to foster empathetic connections and conversations with your staff and community. 
  • Identify some practical techniques that will help your staff foster a better understanding of the communities you serve. 
About the speaker: 

Nancy Goebel, Head, Faculty Engagement, University of Alberta  

Nancy Goebel (she/hers) is Head, Faculty Engagement of the Augustana Campus Library of the University of Alberta (Camrose, Alberta). 

The augustana human library created the foundation for Nancy’s interest in what libraries can do to foster the development of empathy in library staff and students. Following a year’s research leave, she has gained many insights into this area. In a world with much strife, empathy is crucial.

Registration Pricing

OLA Members: $75
Non-Member PLUS: $100 (includes a six-month membership)
Non-Member: $120
Staff at First Nations Public Libraries: $0
Group Pricing: Groups of 5+ qualify for 20% discount 


If you need assistance in registering email us at


Brandi Gillett (Co-Chair), Community Librarian, Halton Hills Public Library

Tracy Munusami (Co-Chair), Chief Executive Officer, New Market Public Library

Alison Yntema, Community Engagement & Programming Librarian, Oshawa Public Libraries

Loretta Tang, Senior Services Specialist, Community Outreach & Engagement, Toronto Public Library

Julia Campbell, Adult Services Librarian, Ajax Public Library

Selina Long, Adult Services Librarian, Milton Public Library

Jan Dawson (OPLA Liaison), Library Service Manager, North York Central Library 

A community-led approach to librarianship focuses on working collaboratively with community, including socially excluded individuals or those with barriers to library services, to understand the needs of the community and in turn, to inform the direction of the library’s work and policies.  By engaging with our community we ensure that our work reflects the local population and ensures that services are relevant to members of the community. A community-led approach puts community members in the position of being the “experts” regarding their own needs and encourages them to realize their potential. Libraries can play a significant role in creating the right conditions and opportunities to allow everyone the ability to pursue a better future.

1.  Mandate

To develop a vision and set of best practices for Ontario public library systems to engage the community and develop a set of criteria to effectively measure those efforts.

2.  Terms of Reference

  a.    Committee
The committee will consist of five to eight members representing small, medium and large library systems as well as northern and aboriginal interests. Of the committee members, two will act as co-chairs. The committee will report to the OPLA Council.

  b.    Commitment
Committee members can expect to participate in a minimum of three to five meetings per year (combination of teleconference and in-person). The combined meeting and workload time is estimated at up to six days per year on average spread out over the course of the year. Each member will serve a three year term. OPLA will cover meeting expenses within the approved annual budget.

  c.    Benefits
Volunteers serving on this committee will have the opportunity to work with a diverse group of individuals, all of whom have an interest in or experience with community-led library service models. Committee members will have input and access to best practices and templates which may be implemented in individual workplaces.

  d.    Qualifications
OPLA seeks members who have interest in helping to establish this new committee and define the community-led service model. Interested individuals should have experience in community engagement, relationship building and thinking outside of the box. The committee shall be comprised of current OPLA members in good standing.

3.    Goals and Activities   

   a. Annual Community-Led Think Tank
   b. FIMS case studies that can be shared with Ontario library systems
   c. Community-Led sessions as part of the annual OLA Super Conference
   d. Establish an interactive best practices database
   e. Development of measurement criteria that accurately reflects community-led efforts focusing on outcomes  
   f.  Provincial focus and operationalization of the Community-Led Libraries Toolkit.

November 2021: Virtual

October 3, 2019: London Public Library

October 1, 2018: North York Central Library

May 22, 2015: Western University