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Community Engagement, Spring 2016

Here’s the syllabus and link to the bibliography for my spring, 2016, Community Engagement course. The course meets Thursdays from 1:00-3:50pm at the Library and Information Science building, 501 E. Daniel St., Champaign. Thanks to my students from the spring, 2015, course for their invaluable feedback which I have tried to incorporate into this updated course.

Course Description:

There are many different calls related in some way to libraries and engagement. Are these trending topics of relevance to profession and community, or are the a passing fad or desperate attempt to justify libraries in a time of shrinking public funding? Answering these questions, and achieving impact goals based on decisions, are difficult unless we have a clear understanding of community, of engagement, and how various engagement techniques lead towards very different community engagement priorities. Rather than a settled issue, though, these are contested concepts and practices that we’ll explore, debate, and practice together.

Pre- and Co-requisites:

Junior or senior standing for LIS418AU; consent of instructor for non-LIS graduate students.

Learning Objectives:

The overall objective of the course is to develop a more complex and nuanced conceptual understanding of community, engagement, and social change. Core guiding questions include:

  • In what ways is community a descriptive noun and starting point for engagement work? In what ways is it a verb continually in the act of coming into being? What other forms does community take? What are the ramifications of internalizing and applying these different forms in our work?
  • In what ways is engagement a core outreach program led through libraries by librarians? In what ways is engagement an essential part of our character determining how we carry out every aspect of our profession? What other forms does engagement take? What are the ramifications of internalizing and applying these different forms in our work?
  • In what ways is social change a work of compassion and charity performed for, and in relationship with, individuals in need to help in their personal development? In what ways is social change a work of social justice done as allies and in solidarity with oppressed groups as a community of inquiry to understand the root causes of injustice, to critically reflect on our assumptions, privilege, and power, and to work towards systemic change for the liberation of all? What other forms does social change take? What are the ramifications of internalizing and applying these different forms in our work?

By the end of the semester, students should be able to answer the following:

  • How to utilize a more complex and nuanced conceptual understanding of community, engagement, and social change to strategically design library programs that align with outcomes and impacts goals;
  • How to critically assess engagement tools, programs, and initiatives by considering the various stated and unstated theories of community, engagement, and social change held by library stakeholders;
  • How LIS professionals can be change agents with the confidence to play a leadership role in community projects; and
    How to bring theoretical perspectives from readings and field practice into active dialogue as a daily part of LIS professional life.

Teaching Strategy:

Grounded in the progressive education model of John Dewey and the popular education model of Paulo Freire, among others, this course seeks to reframe the role of course actors so as to create a community of inquiry. While I can not fully forgo my responsibilities arising from, or the power relationship embedded within, my role as instructor within this class, I also acknowledge that often times I will be as much or more the learner benefiting from the knowledge brought to the class by those enrolled in the class for credit. Likewise, those with whom we engage in community, far from being solely a recipient of our services, also bring a wealth of knowledge to bear in our learning. As we work together in common cause for learning and positive social change, we grow into a community of inquiry.

Progressive education only happens when the learning environment aligns with the purposes of participants. I will need your active participation and feedback if we are to assure this happens for all class participants. Further, progressive education requires the intentional sense-making that only comes through systematic, rigorous reflection and discussion, informed by, and resulting in, action in community. Your thoughtful and full participation in each aspect of the class will affect not only your own learning, but that of the other class participants. Through this virtuous cycle, our understanding of the world and our role in it progresses.

The underlying teaching strategy for LIS418, then, is to bring past experiences, service-learning field experiences, and readings together through journaling to foster individual reflection and classroom discussion to foster a community of inquiry. These, in turn, will hopefully inspire new practices in your weekly service learning field experiences and inform subsequent readings, thereby leading towards asking of new and better questions that inform the next round of reflections and discussions. John Dewey suggests that “a well formed question is half answered”, while Eugene Ionesco states that “it is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” In this way we actively recreate the world and bring about liberation and social change.

Assignments and Methods of Assessment:

Students will be graded on a 90% (A), 80% (B), 70% (C), 60% (D) scale. Graded assignments and the overall percentage for each category of assignments are listed below. Note that we will be covering around 100 pages of readings per week. To receive full marks on each assessment component, it will be important that student-instructors complete the assigned readings in advance of class unless otherwise noted.

Service-Learning Reflections (18% of grade):

Each week as students participate in their service-learning field work, they should be alert for key moments that seem to stand out for one reason or another, even if you can’t immediately verbalize why. Using Dewey’s strategies for reflection as described by Carol Rogers in her article “Defining Reflection”, students should use systematic, rigorous reflection to probe more deeply into the experience. The service-learning reflections forum provides a set of guided questions to help with this process. The increasing depth and thoroughness with which students answer these questions will determine whether they receive one or two points for a given post. The top nine posts will be counted towards the final grade.

Site Coordinator Evaluation (10% of grade):

Each student will work with the instructor to identify a host organization with which they will volunteer at least 2 hours/week for 15 weeks. Students also agree to attend any initial training required to fulfill that volunteer position if this is not an organization with which they are already serving. This service-learning opportunity should be viewed as a professional activity and be treated as such. Students should treat this activity as a priority in their schedule, should report on time to their volunteer shifts, and should work in advance with the site coordinator to reschedule if an unavoidable conflict arises.

The site coordinator will be asked to provide a review based on the following items using the scale: 3 – Exceeded expectations; 2 – Met expectations; 1 – Partially missed expectations; 0 – Completely missed expectations. Students who receive a 3 or 2 on all six items will receive an ‘A’; students receiving a 3 or 2 on at least three items and 1 on the others will receive a ‘B’; students receiving a 1 on most items and no more than one 0 will receive a ‘C’; otherwise students will receive an ‘F’.

  • Reliability/Commitment to Job
  • Quality/Quantity of Work
  • Human Relations Skills
  • Teamwork/Cooperation
  • Initiative and Creativity

Professional Journal Entries (18% of grade):

Each week students should spend between 30 and 45 minutes writing down their reflections on the in-class discussions and in-field experiences from the past week as they relate to the theoretical readings and reflections from their in-field engagement. These will be posted to the Professional Journal forum. The goal is to increasingly bring theory and praxis into dialog, with theory informing praxis, and praxis informing our understanding of theory. The increasing depth and thoroughness with which students answer these questions will determine whether they receive one or two points for a given post. The top nine posts will be counted towards the final grade.

Students are encouraged to respectfully comment on the reflections of other students to affirm and expand upon lessons learned, or to provide insights into the biggest question remaining. The instructor may also use the forum on occasion to provide additional information regarding lessons learned or questions remaining.

Concept Papers (30% of grade):

At the end of each of the first three sections of the semester, students will be expected to write a 1000 word paper, plus bibliography, related to the theme of that section. Guiding questions will be developed as part of class discussion to inform our progress through each theme and should be used to inform concept papers. Each paper will be worth 10 points, with full points awarded to students who:

  • Identify and discusses the depth and breadth of issues related to the topic identified in the readings, class discussion, and through past and current experiences;
  • Appropriately cites at least 10 sources in addition to relevant field experiences to substantiate discussion, comparing and contrasting sources rather than independently reviewing them;
  • Reflects an emerging leadership in our profession by relating the theme to the LIS field; and
  • There are no errors in grammar, spelling, or mechanics that detract the reader from the content.

Instructor Evaluation (10% of grade):

The instructor will evaluate student attendance, active participation, and overall progress throughout the course of the semester. The following rubric will be used to assign a score mid-semester and again at the end of the semester. These will be averaged to create the final score.

  • 10 = Student has been an active participant in class discussions based on assigned readings and lived experiences and is demonstrating an increasing grasp of the key concepts covered in class.
  • 8 = Student has been an active participant in some of the class discussions based on assigned readings and lived experiences and is demonstrating some gains in grasping key concepts covered in class.
  • 6 = Student is occasionally active in class and is demonstrating some learning, but it is clear they are not performing to their full capabilities
  • 4 = Student has missed several classes and/or is not always active when attending class
  • 2 = Student has been absent frequently and/or rarely is active in class
  • 0 = Student has consistently missed class during the rated period

Required Texts:

We will use extensive readings from the following required books in addition to occasional articles and online readings.

  • Bishop, Anne. Becoming An Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression. 2nd edition, 2002. Zed Books. ISBN-10: 1842772252; ISBN-13: 978-1842772256 (the third edition will come out sometime soon, although the biggest revision, which was made to chapter 9, is available online already at:
  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 2007. Continuum. ISBN: 0826412769

Depending on the decisions of the class regarding how we focus our time during the fourth and final section of the class, we may also be drawing in part or in full from one or both of the following books:

  • Dudley, Michael. Public Libraries and Resilient Cities. 2012. American Library Association Editions. ISBN-10: 0838911366; ISBN-13: 978-0838911365
  • Edwards, Julie Biando, Robinson, Melissa S. , and Unger, Kelley Rae. Transforming Libraries, Building Communities: The Community-Centered Library. 2013. Scarecrow Press. ISBN-10: 0810891816; ISBN-13: 978-0810891814.

Attendance, Participation, and Statement of Inclusion:

Students are expected to attend all class sessions except in case of emergency. If you have an emergency, communicate with the instructor as early as possible to prevent negatively impacting your grade.

The instructor stands in full agreement with the Chancellor’s Commitment Statement (

As the state’s premier public university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s core mission is to serve the interests of the diverse people of the state of Illinois and beyond. The institution thus values inclusion and a pluralistic learning and research environment, one which we respect the varied perspectives and lived experiences of a diverse community and global workforce. We support diversity of worldviews, histories, and cultural knowledge across a range of social groups including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, economic class, religion, and their intersections.

As such, active participation is therefore expected not only to satisfy requirement to earn course credit, but as a professional courtesy to the class as a communities of practice. Our community of inquiry is vitally enriched when each participant contributes to fieldwork and class discussion by bringing into dialogue their unique perspectives and lived experiences. On the other hand, failure to fully prepare each week for participation in fieldwork and class discussion weakens the community of practice by less-than-fully bringing into dialogue your diverse worldview, history, and cultural knowledge.

Library Resources:;; 217-333-3804

Academic Integrity:

Students should review and follow the University policy on academic integrity, available online at: When you submit an assignment, you are certifying that the work is your own, or that of your project group, and that all use of other people’s material is used in accordance to fair use and copyright policies and is properly referenced. With regard to the service-learning component of the class, while your community engagement service time may, and hopefully will, inform a range of academic works completed during your time at Illinois — and beyond in your professional career — submitted academic works (e.g., written reflections, final reports) that arise from the service hours should be unique to this class and should not duplicate in any significant way academic works submitted in fulfillment of requirements for another class unless all parties have entered into discussion and agreed upon such duplication first.

Accessibility Statement:

To obtain accessibility-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603 (V/TTY), or e-mail a message to

Organization and Course Calendar:

The following is a tentative chronological list of the main topics that will be covered and required readings (see SP16LIS418AG-Bibliography for full citations). This schedule is subject to change. Please refer to the online course page for the definitive schedule for any given week, including specific readings and assignments that should be completed prior to the class session.

January 20-February 4: Theories of Community & Engagement

  • Community of Inquiry
  • Critical service learning
  • Alternative perspectives of community
  • Alternative perspectives of engagement

Required Readings for Theme:

  • -Is Community Informatics Good for Communities?
  • -The Community of Inquiry: Insights for Public Administration from Jane Addams, John Dewey and Charles S. Pierce
  • -Beyond Service Learning: Toward Community Schools and Reflective Community Learners
  • -What If?
  • -Social Justice in Library and Information Science
  • -Engagement and Two Forms of Social Change
  • -Community Service Learning in the Face of Globalization: Rethinking Theory and Practice
  • -Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models
  • -Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking
  • -Race, Culture, and Researcher Positionality: Working through Dangers Seen, Unseen, and Unforeseen
  • -Community
  • -Community Engagement: Definitions and Organizing Concepts from the Literature
  • -Setting the Record Straight: What is Community? And What does it Mean Today?
  • -The Land Ethic
  • -Theories of Community
  • -Who Is The Community?/What Is The Community?
  • -Individuals and Communities: No Man Is an Island
  • -IAP2 Engagement Spectrum
  • -A Ladder of Citizen Participation
  • -A Step-By-Step Guide to ‘Turning Outward’ to Your Community
  • -Libraries Engage Communities
  • -Community-Led Libraries Toolkit (Particularly Overview)
  • -Our Growing Understanding of Community Engagement
  • -Public Engagement: A Primer from Public Agenda
  • -Making Higher Education Civic Engagement Matter in the Community

February 11-March 3: Goals and Principles of Engagement

  • Social Justice and Social Change
  • Capability Approach
  • Popular Education/Liberation
  • Pluralism

Required Readings for Theme

  • -Social Justice, Human Rights, Values, and Community Practice
  • -An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach: Freedom and Agency, Part One
  • -The capability approach and the ‘medium of choice’: steps towards conceptualising information and communication technologies for development
  • -Community Engagement: Definitions and Organizing Concepts from the Literature
  • -Community-based Research and the Two Forms of Social Change
  • -Ideology, Hegemony, Discourse: A Critical Review of Theories of Knowledge and Power
  • -The Common Good
  • -Understanding, Fostering, and Supporting Cultures of Participation
  • -What If?
  • -Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • -Introduction to “Pilgrimages” and -On the Logic of Pluralist Feminism in “Pilgrimages”
  • -Learning the Grammar of Animacy
  • -Difference as a Resource for Democratic Communication

March 10-April 7: Methods and Evaluation of Engagement

  • Community Inquiry
  • Logic Models & Outcome-based Evaluation
  • Asset-based Community Development
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Stakeholder Alignment

Required Readings for Theme

  • -Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People
  • -Building Coalitional Consciousness
  • -Valuing the Commons: A Fundamental Challenge across Complex Systems
  • -Charettes 101: Dynamic Planning for Community Change
  • -Collective Impact
  • -Rethinking Collective Impact
  • -Public Engagement: A Primer from Public Agenda
  • -Pragmatism and Community Inquiry: A Case Study of Community-Based Learning
  • -Beyond Service Learning: Toward Community Schools and Reflective Community Learners
  • -The Community of Inquiry: Insights for Public Administration from Jane Addams, John Dewey and Charles S. Pierce
  • -The Methodological Landscape: Information Systems and Knowledge Management
  • -Outcome-based Evaluation
  • -The Logic Model Guidebook
  • -Reflect and Improve
  • -Participatory action research: contributions to the development of practitioner inquiry in education
  • -Introduction to “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets,”

April 14-April 28: Case Studies – Libraries, Community Engagement, and Social Change

  • Community-led Libraries
  • Libraries Transforming Communities
  • Transforming Libraries, Building Communities
  • Public Libraries and Resilient Cities

Required Readings for Theme (To Be Finalized as a Class)

  • -Community-Led Libraries Toolkit
  • -Libraries Transforming Communities Toolkit
  • -Go Out & Play: Community Engagement through ‘Turning Outward’
  • -2015 Innovations: Civic and Community Engagement
  • -Transforming Libraries, Building Communities
  • -Public Libraries and Resilient Cities
  • -Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st-Century Public Library
  • -Creating Spaces for Change: Working Towards a ‘Story of Now’ in Civic Engagement
  • -Libraries and Civic Engagement

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