Question Six

A plan of action has been developed which includes: analysis of community needs and gaps in service; annual social inclusion audit results; targeted strategies for governance, human resources, and training/learning, plus programs/services, collections development, implementation, and evaluation.

What is it and why is it important?

Intentionality has been rated as critical to removing barriers to inclusion, which is why the audit tool and toolkit focus on the intentionality of this work.

What does it look like and how do you do it?

Review the analysis of community needs and gaps in service

If a Community Needs and Gaps Assessment has not been completed, refer to Question One in this toolkit for suggestions on how to carry out the assessment.

If it has, please review results of the assessment and add them to the table below:

Figure 6.1 Needs and gaps results
Community needs and gaps assessment Results
1. What needs, gaps, and recommendations were provided in the analysis?
2. Which project(s) were developed to meet which needs and gaps?

  • Which projects or initiatives were put on hold?
  • Which needs do these projects meet? (for example: expanded collections, increased representation of this community group on the board, staff, or volunteer teams) Why?

  • Which projects or initiatives need further input?
  • Is the community’s help required to better understand its needs or to assist the library with outreach and communications? If so, who should be contacted to get started?
5. Which projects were implemented but did not realize the expected impact? Did the planning group assess why the initiative was not successful?
6. What are some suggestions for improvement

Complete the Social Inclusion Audit

We recommend that a library complete the social inclusion audit even if it has not developed a social inclusion plan. It will help establish areas of strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, and will help determine areas to focus the social inclusion work. It will also acknowledge a library’s areas of strength.

After the library has completed the social inclusion audit, have a small working committee review results to assess status and progress. Use the exercise below to gain a quick visual of the areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Figure 6.2 Social inclusion audit results
Exercise questions Audit Questions and Indicators
Openness Intentionality Inclusion
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Assess community Assess Diversity Joint teams Community-based approach Internal team planning Use plan Training Outreach Budget Diverse teams Increased use Collaborative
Which questions show no change in status and progress?

Which questions show a negative change in status and progress?

Which questions show a positive change in status and progress?

Develop strategies

The plan should include strategies for all of the following areas detailed in Figure 6.3.

Figure 6.3 Strategy development
Strategy Includes: Preliminary Assessment of policies, strategies, and practices Changes Required? Responsibility and Timeline
Your board representatives assess board candidates’ interest, availability, and potential contribution to the board of trustees.
In addition to traditional recruitment criteria, the board encourages applications from members of the community by promoting the library and the volunteer opportunity among the target community members through:

  • ethnic newspapers,
  • ethnic radio stations,
  • associations,
  • local clubs,
  • non-profit organizations that provide services to this community group.
When assessing applications for board positions, the board reviews applications to assess if any of the candidates:
are representatives of target community groups
have any knowledge or training in cultural competency, social inclusion, anti-racism, or anti-oppression
understand the importance of the library being social inclusive
Consider asking board candidates to explain how a library can act as an important vehicle for social inclusion for new immigrants, members of particular ethnic/religious groups, youth, seniors, etc.
Human Resources:
Address the following questions to assess the library’s human resources diversity practices:
Are formal or informal staff recruitment process inclusive of target community group members?
Are hiring strategies recruiting potential staff members who have knowledge and experience to work with diverse communities?
Does the library provide training to help staff effectively work with people from different backgrounds?
What is the library’s history with equal opportunities for recruitment and promotion for diverse and qualified professionals?
Has the library set a policy or numeric goal to hire target community groups
Does the library have community development staff members that are responsible for community outreach, and/or diverse communities?
Has social inclusion training been included in the current training and development plans for all staff?
What types of training programs have been selected? Does this type of training best fit the library culture and budget?
Which staff members are responsible for developing the social inclusion training and learning initiatives plan?
Which staff members are responsible for researching various training programs?
Programs and Services
Does the library have programs that facilitate inclusion of new immigrants, youth, Aboriginals, seniors, and the top ethnic/cultural groups in the community where the library is located?
Does the library collaborate with immigrant and refugee agencies to facilitate inclusion of new immigrants through programs such as ESL, settlement assistance, citizenship training, and reading circles?
Does the library provide programs that encourage members of the target community to unite at the library and engage in its offerings?
Does the library have collections (books, newspapers, periodicals and audiovisuals) that represent the target community’s culture and/or language?
Does the library know if these materials are of interest to the target community?
Are the target community members asked for their input before and/or after sourcing the materials?

Lessons From The Toronto Public Library

The Toronto Public Library states that meeting the needs of all of Toronto’s population is fundamental to service development at Toronto Public Library.


  • The Ontario Public Libraries Act
    This Act enshrines the principles of governance by a board with a majority of citizen representatives, and maintains that core library services need to be free. As these principles are included in the Act, they are not specifically referenced by Toronto Public Library in its policy framework. But these principles are acknowledged as being fundamental to promoting social inclusion. (
  • Toronto Public Library Board Bylaws outline practices to encourage participation and transparency in decision making processes. There is advance public notice of meetings and agendas. Meetings are open to the public and the public have the right to discuss topics of interest.

Materials Selection Policy

This policy outlines the library’s commitment to intellectual freedom. It also delineates the library’s role in collecting materials that inform and increase an individual’s ability to function effectively as a member of society and which reflect the diverse and linguistic or cultural heritage of the Toronto community.

Circulation Policy

The library’s circulation policy sets out conditions to promote equitable access to library services. A fine-exempt status is available for special needs for persons with disabilities who find it difficult to access library service. As well, targeted initiatives remove barriers for specific groups. For example, a teen fine-forgiveness program has been run periodically. There are also accommodations for those without permanent address, including residents living in hostels. A task group is currently exploring other initiatives to remove the barriers of fines and fees.

Translation Policy

The library’s translation policy outlines the commitment to translating important information about library collections, services and programs into select languages to ensure library services are widely accessible.

Programming Policy

Library programs are free and open to everyone. Accommodations for persons with disabilities are available on request.

Room Booking Policy

Lower rates are offered for non-profit groups.

Library Settlement Program

The Library Settlement Program offered in 19 library locations is open to all residents without proof of status under the terms of the partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Lessons From The Hamilton Public Library

HPL Materials Selection Policy

The ultimate responsibility for the selection of materials lies with the chief librarian, who acts in accordance with the general policies established by the library board. In practice, this authority is delegated to professional staff.

The Hamilton Public Library endorses the Statement on Intellectual Freedom adopted by the Canadian Library Association in 1985 and the Statement on the Intellectual Rights of the Individual adopted by the Ontario Library Association in 1998.

The Library Board, in establishing a Materials Selection Policy, was cognizant of the Constitution Act, 1982, Part 1, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2b, which guarantees everyone the following fundamental freedoms: “b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”

Partnership/Project Agreements

In addition to formal policies, HPL has developed specific partnership/project agreements with key stakeholders. These provide staff with benchmarking and assessment tools for services to newcomers. Partnerships are crucial to all library projects, but especially to programs intended to reach newcomers. An ongoing partnership with the Settlement and Integration Services Organization (SISO) has made many of these innovative programs and services possible.

Staff Diversity

In addition to HPL’s commitment to numerous partnership agreements, special projects, and programs, a full-time Diverse Communities Librarian position was created in 2004. This librarian works with public services, community development, collections staff, and management to monitor and assesses diversity/inclusion of programs, services, and collections.


Intentionality requires a library to objectively assess the relevance of programs and services to the target community. At this point, we recommend a library complete the social inclusion audit. The process is key to determining both the strong and the weak areas of its social inclusion efforts. It also helps identify opportunities for improvement.

Use the resources, tools, and information in this section to develop strategies for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the library’s governance, human resources, training, programs, and collections initiatives.

Audit Tool Interpretation – How to Assess Status and Progress

The Social Inclusion Audit Tool is designed to help the library assess its current status and level of progress in removing barriers to social inclusion. This box contains some examples to help use the Audit Tool for Question 6.

Low Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library has not developed a plan of action and/or has not made significant modifications to improve the level of inclusion.

What should you do? Be Open to Change.

This is a good time to complete the Social Inclusion Audit in order to gain knowledge on where the library stands. If the library does not have a thorough understanding of the community and its needs, refer back to Chapter One, as these exercises will assist. The exercises in this chapter are useful to help develop a plan of action for inclusion, and to start implementing changes.

Low Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the library may not have made great strides towards inclusion yet, but there is a plan to modify strategies. Preparatory work is complete and, most importantly, the library is engaged with the target community.

What should you do? Refine.

The exercises in this chapter will help refine library plans and enable the implementation of the new strategies. Assigning responsibility and setting deadlines will help ensure inclusion strategies are implemented. Planning to do the Social Inclusion Audit annually, as well as setting up methods for evaluating the library’s progress, will also help increase future status.

High Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library has profiled and consulted with the target community but hasn’t yet established an advisory committee. The library has developed and implemented inclusion strategies for some areas but not all, and there is not a clear plan for where to go next.

What should you do? Become Intentional.

The exercises in this chapter will help the library to become intentional. The library is on the right track, yet still in danger of losing momentum. It is important to cover every area, from governance, HR, training, and programs to services and collections. It is also important to follow a clear plan from implementation to evaluation. Setting deadlines and ensuring there is an inclusion project leader will also improve progress.

High Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the library has an active community advisory committee, knows what the community needs, has completed the SI Audit and is continually developing and modifying organizational strategies to remove the barriers to inclusion. There is also regular evaluation of strategies, programs, services, collections, and training programs using an inclusion lens.

What should you do? Mentor Others.

The library is demonstrating a high capacity by developing and following a plan of action towards inclusion. No doubt there will have been some great successes along the way and some failures. Sharing these experiences with other libraries will help everyone on the way to becoming more inclusive.