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Belonging recognizes our commitment to and support of something larger than ourselves. We identify and recognize shared values, traditions, goals, and aspirations. Belonging requires transparency, accountability, participation, and collaboration. We feel welcomed, known, included, supported, and connected when we belong to a community.

Public libraries can play a key role in fostering belonging through: 

  • Asset Based Community Development
  • Strategic Planning
  • Advocacy & Storytelling
  • Partnerships & Collaboration
  • Programming
  • Outreach

Why it Matters

Belonging strengthens the social fabric, creating responsive and resilient communities. In 2023, the Surgeon General of the US released a report about a new public health crisis: the epidemic of loneliness and isolation, which results in people feeling isolated, invisible, and insignificant. Small and rural libraries serve populations facing both geographic and social isolation. Public libraries are community anchors, serving as community convenors and creating opportunities for connection and a culture of belonging.

As integral Third Places – informal spaces where random and intentional in-person relationships occur – public libraries have a role in creating culturally responsive programming and partnerships to encourage relationship-driven trust building.


In Practice

Library: Benedek Memorial Library, Savona, Steuben County, NY

Population: 827

A picture of the Benedek Library in Savona, NY

The Benedek Memorial Library was able to offer book clubs in partnership with the nonprofit agency Pro Action of Steuben and Yates as part of its Summer Read Plus Program through funding from a DEI Microgrant from the Southern Tier Library System. The book clubs were designed to offer books by diverse authors to youth and young adults in a setting where participants could read and discuss issues arising from the reading. Many parents looked at and read the books the youth were reading, as well, expanding the program to adult participants. Books that were read and discussed included New Kid by Jerry Kraft, Tidesong by Wendy Xu, and Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada. As Library Director Candy Wilson noted, "Allowing and encouraging parents and adults to read what the younger people were reading exposed them to DEI material without pushing the material. In the Summer Read Plus, adults who would never read the manga genre learned that they could enjoy it. We look forward to keeping the book clubs going throughout the year." 


Use the Pathways Tracking Document to document your learning journey.