The Abundant Community, written by John McKnight and Peter Block, illustrates the advantages of relying on community rather than consumerism to provide basic needs including safety, security, food, jobs, health, and well-being. Consumerism forces us to rely on systems such as government, corporations, and professionals to solve our problems and it creates the illusion that we need to be fixed and that our imperfections must be hidden. In contrast, the abundant community movement emphasizes shifting from isolation and disconnection to a culture of transparency, inclusion, compassion, and, connection. The foundation of the abundant community is the giving of gifts, the presence of association, and the compassion of hospitality (McKnight & Block, 2010). In addition to these properties, there are six basic components that make a community competent: kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness, acceptance of fallibility, and mystery (McKnight & Block, 2010).
The abundant community and the participatory service model
McKnight and Block (2010) define a competent community as “one that takes advantage of its abundance, admits the realities of the human condition and the truth of decay, restoration, and growth processes that are a part of every living system. Variety, uniqueness, and appreciation for the one-of-a-kind are its essence” (p. 65). This mirrors the open and transparent approach of the participatory service model (Casey, 2011). Casey (2011) describes the participatory service library as one that “engages and queries its entire community and seeks to integrate them into the structure of change.” He elaborates further by discussing how the community should actively participate in developing new library services and ideas (Casey, 2011). The common goal here is the use of integration and openness to foster change.
Libraries as community builders
McKnight and Block (2010) describe a competent community as “the place where I can be myself by sharing my unique gifts and revealing my unique sorrows. It is where one fully emerges as one of a kind” (p. 69). In sharing, connection is cultivated and trust is built. Stephens (2016) posits the importance of using virtual and physical spaces to encourage patrons to engage, participate, and connect. Libraries can do this successfully by creating a welcoming environment where everyone feels comfortable. For example, puzzles and board games can be placed in common areas where patrons gather. Book clubs are another way patrons and library staff can connect. Users can connect virtually by sharing their stories and art via blogs, writing book and movie reviews, or joining online forums with ongoing discussions about various topics.
In order to reach out to non-library users, Stephens (2016) suggests that we “go to them, ask them what they want and need” (p. 42). McKnight and Block (2010) also emphasize the importance of reaching out by knocking on doors to get community members on board. Libraries can do this by participating in community events, setting up Little Free Libraries throughout the community, or even hosting free concerts. This can be accomplished virtually through interactive library websites and social media platforms as well as blogs.
It is evident that the abundant community parallels the participatory library service model. They both share the same goal: to create an engaging environment that encourages transparency, connection, compassion, and love; to create a place where everyone is welcomed and valued. This is truly the “heart of librarianship” (Stephens, 2016).
The photo below is from today’s sermon at the church I attend. The message was about community and I felt compelled to share it since it fits right in with this report.
Casey, M. (2011, October 20). Revisiting participatory service in trying times [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/
McKnight, J. & Block, P. (2010). The abundant community. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.