Public Libraries

Libraries: Building Community Resilience in Colorado

January 30, 2018  • Dominique Harrison

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is pleased to announce the publication of Libraries: Building Community Resilience in Colorado. This report is the result of a collaboration with the Colorado State Library. The report unveils a set of opportunities and recommendations for building public-private and public-public library partnerships statewide that include participation in new youth initiatives, workforce readiness, and libraries serving as civic hubs. The Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue on Public Libraries is the third in a series of Aspen Institute dialogues across the country that are designed to spark new thinking and action to transform libraries for the 21st century. The report is available on the Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue on Public Libraries website at

In 2016, the administration of Governor John Hickenlooper conducted an in-depth project examining what it takes to create more resilient communities. This theme of community resilience provided the focal point for dialogue and recommendations for action to advance library-community partnerships that build community capacity and opportunities for individual and family success in Colorado.

In the foreword, Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes endorsed the work of the Dialogue, saying:

The Dialogue allowed thoughtful consideration of the interplay of statewide trends with new developments that are reshaping education, jobs and civic participation; and it began to identify how libraries can play a greater role in closing troubling gaps and building more sustainable communities.

Libraries: Building Community Resilience in Colorado helps to define where public libraries fit on the state’s roadmap to resilience for Colorado communities. The report identifies ten opportunities for libraries and their communities to work more effectively together to enhance the drivers of and mitigate the challenges to community resiliency. These are:

  1. Build into the resiliency of communities the knowledge that people change career paths all the time.
  2. Look at education and lifelong learning as one interrelated ecosystem.
  3. Adopt whole approaches to children and families for closing achievement and other gaps.
  4. Develop partnerships for collective impact.
  5. Connect libraries with the creative community.
  6. Build networks with the private sector.
  7. Create a new office to facilitate public-private and public-public partnerships.
  8. Reclaim the salon culture in libraries.
  9. Attract, inspire and enable diverse talent in the library and the community.
  10. Change the culture and policies that inhibit innovation.

This report is a result of the Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue on Public Libraries, an event that brought together 24 library leaders, state and local policymakers, business and civic partners for a day-long leadership roundtable to explore new thinking and practical solutions for using the infrastructure and expertise of public libraries more effectively. The report includes highlights from a conversation with Governor John Hickenlooper.

The Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue also included an opening dinner with a panel presentation featuring three highly-regarded library directors from different regions of the state: Claudine Perrault, director of Estes Valley Library; Joseph Sanchez, director of Mesa County Libraries; and Pam Sandlian-Smith, director of Anythink Libraries (Front Range/Adams County).  They shared compelling stories about libraries leading in their communities in response to disaster, economic challenges and demographic change.

With strong leadership from the Colorado State Library, participants have already begun to advance the recommendations in this report. We are grateful to our friends at the Colorado State Library for being such excellent partners for the Aspen Institute Colorado Dialogue on Public Libraries.

To learn more about the issues and opportunities discussed in Colorado, the building blocks of resilient communities and key insights from the conversation with Governor Hickenlooper, download and read the report here. Video of the panel presentations are also available on the conference website,