Civic Learning in the 21st-Century Library


The Democratic Knowledge Project  (DKP) at Harvard University (Principal Investigator: Danielle Allen) seeks support to develop and pilot, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Library System (MLS), professional development programs to equip public and school librarians to succeed as providers of out-of-school civic education and connected learning. The DKP is a distributed research and action lab at Harvard that seeks to identify, strengthen, and disseminate the bodies of knowledge, skills, and capacities that democratic citizens need in order to succeed at operating their democracy. The MLS serves more than 1,700 libraries of all types and sizes throughout the state, including 373 public libraries and over 700 school libraries. 

We plan to develop and pilot, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Library System, professional development resources that build on existing Ten Question materials. We seek to modify and repurpose existing classroom oriented materials for use by librarians in the library context and to train school and public youth librarians in the use of the Ten Questions materials in the context of their existing programs. 
Running from Oct 1, 2018, through September 30, 2019, our project seeks (a) to prepare library professionals to help youth develop into equitable, effective, and self-protective civic agents in a digital age; (b) to support libraries working for/with underserved youth in urban and rural areas to create positive civic learning experiences; and (c) to equip librarians with assessment tools to track the impact of their work on youth civic learning.  

To ensure that the goal is accomplished effectively and equitably, we will select eight to ten local partner libraries––a minimum of four school and four public libraries––based on geographic location (both rural and urban), social-economic conditions (under-resourced communities), and racial-cultural diversity, in consultation with MLS. This project is funded by a Laura Bush 21st Century Library Program Award (“Young Changemakers in the 21st-Century Library.”)  Further updates will be provided as appropriate.  

Visit the MLS  Young Changemakers.




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Itō, Mizuko. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, and geeking out: Kids living and learning with new media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation series on digital media and learning). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press
Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided inquiry: School libraries in the 21st century. School Libraries Worldwide, 16(1).
Messenger, C. G. (2015). Information literacy + literacy = evidence-based practice in the classroom and the school library. Knowledge Quest, 43(3), 20-27.