While polarization and the lack of civility are rampant at the national level, libraries can play a critical role in addressing these tensions locally. Examine the principles of civility and how libraries can foster civil discourse and respect for others through such events as Longest Tables and Human Libraries. Learn how the Choose Civility initiative has strengthened libraries’ roles as community leaders and change agents.
Since 2007, Howard County Library System (MD) has been leading the way with its Choose Civility initiative. They, along with library systems across the country, invite you to join the movement to nurture civility in your own community. Learn how kindness creates communities, how to challenge stereotypes effectively, and cultivate random acts of civility. Find opportunities to implement Choose Civility to enhance internal and external customer service, develop partnerships and community support, and create a more connected community of people.
Civility Goes Viral: A New Approach for a New Era
Valerie J. Gross, MM, MLS, JD, served as President & CEO of Howard County Library System (HCLS) for 16 years (2001 – 2017). Developing a new vision for libraries, Gross worked with the HCLS Board, staff, funders, elected officials, and the community to implement "Libraries = Education." She also worked on the development of Choose Civility, an initiative that invites everyone who lives and works in a community to choose respect, empathy, and inclusiveness when interacting with others, both professionally and personally.
Gross has delivered 100+ keynotes, workshops, seminars, and webinars on Libraries = Education and Choose Civility, drawing the participation and input of thousands of library professionals from all 50 states and more than 100 countries around the world. Combining these experiences, she authored Transforming Our Image, Building Our Brand: The Education Advantage (ABC-CLIO, 2013). Her forthcoming book is called Civility Goes Viral: Creating A Culture, Leading the Way.
For both of these initiatives, HCLS was recognized in 2013 as Library of the Year by Gale and Library Journal. They hailed the “Libraries = Education” equation “a 21st-century model worthy of study and consideration by every library in America, if not the world” (Library Journal, 2013). Adopted across the country and overseas, these initiatives are ushering in a new era for libraries everywhere.
Christie Lassen is the Director of Communications and Partnerships for Howard County Library System. A graduate of Leadership Howard County, she is a member of Blossoms of Hope Board of Directors, #OneHoward steering committee, and several committees for Howard County Public School System. At HCLS, Christie coordinates the national Choose Civility initiative and leads a staff of talented professionals that produce award-winning events and publications. She has 20+ years experience in communications, events, partnerships, and development and a marketing degree from Texas A&M University.