Question One

The library, in consultation with the community, assessed the demographic profile of the community – it understands the needs of the community’s different cultural groups, it understands the gaps in programs and services and it understands collections relevant to these groups.

What is it and why is it important?

As we learned in the opening section of this toolkit, the definition of social inclusion is the participatory, authentic and accountable manner in which organizations uphold and reinforce the principles of access, equity and thus social inclusion for all. In particular, social inclusion is the manner in which organizations: are open to understanding and engaging in their communities; explore, view, and challenge barriers, values, and behaviours; develop, implement and evaluate systems, programs, policies, and procedures; and provide equitable access to services and decision making opportunities. Social inclusion is also determined by the way organizations demonstrate the level of inclusion through tangible outcomes.

Simply stated, projects that engage in social inclusion work must be informed by the perspectives and worldviews of those to be included.

In order for the library to reinforce the principles of access, equity and thus social inclusion for all, it is no surprise that the first step – and the first question in this social inclusion audit – requires that the library become familiar with the groups in the community that are currently facing barriers to inclusion. Who are these groups? Do they represent new immigrants from a particular country or region of the world? What is the average size of this new immigrant family? And how many family members are children, youth, or seniors?

This indicator of openness, includes two questions from the social inclusion audit. Both assess the degree in which the library knows the community and its needs.

The first step in getting to understand the needs of the community is to establish the group the library wishes to investigate. It is possible that the social inclusion audit – as well as the process to better understand the needs of the community – is based on research encompassing the whole geographic community served by the library. This is an important macro perspective of social inclusion; removing barriers to inclusion often requires targeted and customized efforts.

Both the Principal Investigator of this project and the toolkit recommend the library target a particular group – perhaps a new immigrant group representing a large percentage of the library’s population. This way a library can come to understand the unique needs and gaps in service particular to this community. This information will provide the library with the knowledge required to remove barriers to inclusion for this particular group.

Some of the groups the library might consider building or strengthening relationships with include:

  • new immigrants from a particular country or region of the world,
  • youth,
  • seniors,
  • the economically disadvantaged,
  • single mothers,
  • aboriginal Canadians,
  • the top-three multicultural groups that reside in the library’s community,
  • the library’s full geographic region.
The Community-Led Libraries Toolkit (Working Together Project, 2008) effectively provides a cautionary note for libraries to reconsider the traditional methods used to collect data, including comment cards or polls. These methods serve to capture data from existing library users. They are not as effective in capturing data from non-library users – those who are likely to feel socially excluded from the community and Canadian society. (

First Step to Inclusion – Knowledge of the Community

Gathering knowledge of the community is a significant step toward building a relevant and inclusive library that responds to the needs of all community members. Before inclusion initiatives are implemented, a library should analyze its community’s needs. This research should focus on the inequities of the system, as well as the changes needed to be made to the library’s practices. This will help close the distance between excluded groups and the greater community. To gain better understanding, a library should commit to gathering information on its community’s demographics and needs, and on its gaps in programs, services, and collections. The library should also commit to communicating that new information to its staff in planning meetings and training sessions. To be able to offer effective service, management and staff require the ability to effectively communicate and build relationships with diverse, often excluded, groups. In order to have a mutual understanding of the community, a library should use participatory and community-based research approaches, which will help it develop high-quality services that are accessible, relevant and responsive.

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

To gain a better understanding of a community, follow these steps. They will help you create demographic profiles, as well as identify the needs and gaps in library programs, services and collections.

There are six steps to successfully gain an understanding of the community:

  1. Develop a plan of action.
  2. Determine the community group on which the library will focus.
  3. Assess the demographic profile of the group(s).
  4. Understand the use of the library and its services by the target group(s).
  5. Understand the needs of the target group(s).
  6. Know the gaps in programs, services and collections.

1. Develop a plan of action

Developing a plan of action is crucial to ensure all relevant aspects are covered and all key resources used. It will help to build an understanding of the target community group, as well as accurately assess their needs and the gaps in services. Careful planning during this first step will help establish the approach to the remaining five steps. It will also help you set deadlines and identify those responsible for each task. The following exercise (Figure 1.1) is a template that will help identify these steps and roles.

Figure 1.1 Plan of action – community profile, needs, and gaps
Step How Who When See Exercise
2. Determine the community group of focus.
3. Assess demographic profile of target community.
4. Understand use of the library and its services by this community.
5. Understand the needs of the community.
6. Understand gaps in programs, services, and collections.

2. Determine the community group of focus

It is important for a library to determine whether it wants to assess the geographic community that it serves or, alternatively, a sub-sector of the community (for example: new immigrants, youth, seniors, or an established multi-cultural group in the community).

Figure 1.2 Determine the community group(s) of focus
Action Item Specify
Define the target group about which to gather information. We will gather information about the following community group(s):
The pilot social inclusion audit project focused on new immigrant youth from four different cultural and regional communities across Canada:
Library community New immigrant youth group Average age Male Female % Born in Canada Languages spoken at home Library users to non-users
Brampton Asian 17 50 0% 50% Punjabi, 50% English 4:1
Toronto Somali 17 58% female 58% 75% Somali, 83% English 10:2
Vancouver Filipino 18 83% female 0% 100% Tagalog, 67% English 3:3
Hamilton French Speaking from Middle East 15 60% female 0% 60% Arabic, 40% English 4:1
We have included the summary report of this research project with the four pilot libraries in the appendix section to provide a practical example of the research and results of this community-based research project. We hope that this real example inspires your library to consider the implementation of a similar project.

3. Assess demographic profile of the target community

Identify the information the library deems important and relevant to better understand the target community. To help stay on track:

  • prepare a plan that will establish the information to be sought;
  • name the person(s) who will collect the data;
  • establish a timeline for each activity.
The exercise templates below will assist you in identifying the type of data needed and will suggest data resources.
Figure 1.3a Gathering information
This exercise has been adapted from Inclusiveness at Work: How to Build Inclusive Non-Profit Organizations
Action Item Responsibility Date Completed Notes
  1. Select facts to collect about the community
  • Define the fields to research
  • Select facts to collect about each field
  • Select facts to collect about the library
  • Create a work plan for gathering community facts
  • Create a work plan for gathering field facts
  • Create a work plan for gathering organizational facts
Figure 1.3b Develop your plan to collect information on the community
This exercise has been adapted from Inclusiveness at Work: How to Build Inclusive Non-Profit Organizations.
Information to Collect Internal or External Information Facts and Sources Select those to collect Tick if high priority Responsibility to collect Date of completion
Type of Community Group
What is the complete cultural/ethnic breakdown of the geographic community served?
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
The community group represents ____% of the geographic community the library serves
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
Is this a new immigrant or refugee group?
  • Yes
  • No
Is this an established multicultural group?
  • Yes
  • No
Changes in Demographic Profiles
Has this community increased/decreased in population since the last census?
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
  • Other
How new is this community group to the community?
What are the projected demographic changes by the next census?
Is the library investigating a particular age group?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
Is the library investigating a group that speak a particular language(s)
  • Yes
  • No
Non-English speaking
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
English Only
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
First languages of non-English speakers and bilingual speakers
  • Census
  • City Planning
  • Strategic Plan
  • Marketing Plans
  • CIC
Income Level
Is the library investigating a group within a particular income level?
Which income level?
Figure I.3c Understanding the Community
This exercise has been adapted from Inclusiveness at Work: How to Build Inclusive Non-profit Organizations
Information to Collect Conduct or review existing data? Facts and Sources Select those to collect Tick if high priority Responsibility to collect Date of completion
Survey the community group
Focus groups
Stakeholder interviews
External services provided to the community group
What other organizations provide services to this community group?
  • Immigration and settlement agencies
  • Women’s groups
  • Children’s and youth groups
  • Seniors groups
  • Others?
Community needs and gaps assessments
Asset and inventory map of services provided to this group
Completed community surveys

DO! Look internally first!

  • Look for census data, demographics, and community profiles.
  • Carry out internal assessments of programs, services, and collections.
  • Assess partnerships with non-profit organizations (as an indicator and also to receive additional information about the target group).


  • the library’s internal marketing strategy that documents outreach and awareness plans – it might include demographic information about the community the library is assessing;
  • immigrant and refugee data;
  • focus groups;
  • community profiles;
  • targeted outreach initiatives;
  • current library users;
  • the variety of programs and services used or attended by particular groups;
  • the languages represented in the library collections.

Now look externally…

Search for external information that will help the library understand the demographic profile of the target community, including:
  • demographic profiles through census and city planning and economic development data,
  • community needs assessments developed by community organizations.

Search for information from…

  • school boards;
  • local non-profit organizations for seniors, youth, and culture;
  • immigrant/settlement and refugee serving organizations;
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), “Permanent Residents destined to Selected Communities in Ontario by Calendar Year.”

Tip from Inclusiveness at Work: How to Build Inclusive Non-Profit Organizations

“If you are worried that staff are too busy to spend time collecting the data, consider other resources that may be available to assist. For example, graduate students are often looking for engaging projects for their coursework. You may also have volunteers who would be excited by the opportunity to engage in an interesting research project such as this.” (Pease, K. 2005. p. 15)

Lessons From The Toronto Public Library:

Assessment of Demographic and Socio-Economic Profiles of Multicultural Groups within Toronto

The Toronto Public Library strives to maintain a comprehensive and current understanding of demographic and social issues in Toronto. The library views these through a number of lenses and from various political perspectives, including that of government, agencies, advocacy groups, and residents. Every four years the library completes a strategic planning process informed by an extensive environmental scan and through public consultation. This research is updated on an ongoing basis to reflect emerging social issues, including the impacts of the economic downturns on residents.

Examples of published sources of information:

  • Census Data – Toronto Public Library partners with the Toronto Data Consortium to purchase cross tabulation of census results at the neighbourhood level, including age, education, ethnicity, poverty, and labour market trends. The Consortium is a partner in the Canada Social Data Strategy (
  • Projected population information derived from a number of sources, including Toronto’s economic profiles published by the Planning Department of the City.
  • Census Daily, which provides daily online updates and reports on Canadian social-economic trends.
  • Research reports from the university community on issues of poverty and outcomes for specific community groups (e.g. Centre for Urban and Community Studies and University of Toronto).
  • Research reports from community agencies (e.g. the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Community Social Planning Council.)
  • Reports on the status of public education (e.g. Fraser Institute and People for Education, which analyze school performance in benchmarking initiatives.)
  • Canadian Urban Institute research reports and data.
  • Daily newspapers, including the ethnic press are scanned for information on employers, employment, and community issues.

Examples of unpublished data sources:

  • Analysis of library card holder data by age and postal code to understand usage patterns to ensure broad participation.
  • Information on settlement trends and patterns through the Library Settlement Partnership from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and settlement agencies.
  • School board enrollment data gained through ongoing partnerships, including results for standard tests and indices such as the Educational Development Index.
  • Information on the needs of at-risk students through the library’s partnership with the Toronto Catholic School Board in the Transitional Intervention Program for Suspended Students.
  • Information from community agencies and stakeholders (e.g. Public Health, Social Services).
  • Toronto Public Library participates on Neighbourhood Action Teams in support of the city’s 13 priority neighbourhoods.
  • Informal interactions with community partners are a good source of information on community needs.
  • Through the Working Together Projects and CULC/CBUC Social Inclusion Audit, the library deepened community contacts.

Results of Public Consultation:

  • The library conducts frequent public consultation and results are analyzed to understand both perception, awareness and usage of public library service, including focus groups for all capital projects.
  • Ongoing formal and informal user feedback is analyzed.
  • Ongoing communication with front line staff members.
  • Front line staff members provide current information on community trends, issues, and service requirements.
Figure 1.3d Community profile template
Use this template to summarize the demographic information you have collected on this community group.
Category Answer
Defining characteristics of the community/community group:
Literacy Level
Is English Second Language
Top Languages Spoken
Age or Age Range
Gender or Gender Mix
Government/Charity Partners that service this group
Does the library have collections targeted to this group? Explain
Are programs and services provided to this group? Explain


  • What was learned about this group?
  • How different is this community compared to the other communities the library serves?

4. Understand the use of the library and its services by this community group

After the community’s profile has been developed, the library should conduct an in-depth analysis of the use of the library and its services by this community group. This analysis can be further enhanced by comparing library usage of the target community group with that of the general community or other groups the library serves.

Begin by assessing whether or not the following issues are inclusive and/or representative of the target group:

  • library collections,
  • library use,
  • active/issued library cards,
  • programs and services,
  • marketing and outreach campaigns,
  • committee advisory groups,
  • community partnerships.

The exercise template 1.4 provides a method to assess the use of the library and its services by the target community group.

Figure 1.4 Understand library use – How well do we know the target group?
This exercise has been adapted from Inclusiveness at Work: How to Build Inclusive Non-Profit Organizations.
Information to Collect Internal or External Information Facts and Sources Select those to collect Tick if high priority Responsibility to collect Date of completion
Program Inclusion
Does the library have programs and services that promote the inclusion of this community group? If yes, which ones?
Is inclusion mentioned in the program and services policies or plans?
Are issues of inclusiveness addressed in client related policies?
Marketing and Outreach Inclusion
Do library outreach campaigns include this group?
Do library marketing campaigns include htis group: in the objective of the campaign, and/or in marketing collateral materials?
Does the library dedicate financial resources to develop and implement targeted marketing and outreach?
Does the library work collaboratively with organizations that serve this community group?


Gathering quantitative information such as library use and collections will provide some understanding of how the target community group uses the library and its services. To fully understand how it uses the library and the barriers it faces, consider the following:
  • Implement a series of focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and surveys;
  • Ensure that community-based research (e.g. focus groups) is used when the library embarks upon the development of a new strategic plan.

Lessons Learned from the CULC/CBUC Social Inclusion Pilot Project with New Immigrant Youth

It is important to remember that the needs of a particular group can change. Feedback from the new immigrant youth who participated in the CULC/CBUC pilot project, for example, indicates their suggestions for types of programs they would like to see in libraries vary depending on the length of time spent in Canada. As the number of years spent in Canada decreases, the percentage of program suggestions for age-related programs decreases and the ethnic- or newcomer-related program suggestions increases. Therefore, the newer the youth are to Canada, the more they require assistance with integrating into society; the longer the youth are in Canada, the more they require age-related programs. Naturally, age-related programs, services, and collections will continue to include and integrate these youth into the community and into Canadian society.
Preferred Programs Compared to Years Spent in Canada
Library Suggestions for Age-Related Programs Suggestions for Ethnic/Newcomer-Related Programs Number of Years Spent in Canada
Toronto N/A N/A 15 years
Vancouver 89% 11% 4 years
Brampton</td 40% 60% 2 years
Hamilton 25% 75% 1 year

5. Understand needs of the community

If the previous steps in this chapter have been followed, the library will have determined the community group of focus and assessed its demographic profile. It will also have compiled its profile library and library services usage information.

Now the library is tasked with understanding how it can develop or adapt existing collections, services and programs. It will also have to research and understand the needs of this target community group.

There are several ways to assess the needs of the target community group:

  1. Analyze how other non-profit organizations and government bodies service the target community group. This will help the library gain knowledge and avoid duplication of services.
    • Ask other non-profit organizations and government agencies that provide services to this group to share information that will provide an insight into the needs of the community, including the existing needs and gaps in services identified.
    • Inquire about services that will assist this community group with integration and inclusion in library services and the community in general.


It might be best to work with other non-profit organizations to develop an asset inventory map of the services the community group receives from other organizations. Invite a representative from each of these organizations to form an ad hoc collaborative network that will develop the asset inventory map. The map will help with understanding the ways in which the target community group is serviced by other organizations. Libraries can leverage their work by participating in inclusion efforts that are integrated to services offered by other NPOs. The mapping results will allow the collaborative network to develop a plan that focuses on the inclusion of the target group into the community, and will hopefully prompt collaborative initiatives between the library and these community partners. Integrate surveying the community group as part of the strategic planning process.
Using what has been learned about the target community group so far, it is now time for the library to assess current library programs, services, and collections to determine the extent to which it meets the target group’s needs. The following lessons from the Welcome, Stranger: Public Libraries Build the Global Village Tool Kit provide examples of some key issues for consideration, as well as appropriate questions to ask. The Welcome, Stranger Tool Kit suggests that you ask the following questions:
  • What services would assist with integrating this group into your community?
  • What are the priorities for serving the target community group?
    • In the community?
    • In the library?
  • What barriers are keeping immigrants from getting the assistance they need?
    • Community Barriers:
      • Sense of physical isolation
      • Transportation
      • Safety
      • Others
    • Library Barriers:
      • Library card registration
      • Signage
      • Marketing
      • Others
The questions above are from the Welcome, Stranger: Public Libraries Build the Global Village Tool Kit (Urban Libraries Council, Chicago, 2008). Used by permission of the Urban Libraries Council. The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is an alliance of more than 150 metropolitan libraries and corporations in the United States and Canada. ULC works with strategic partners to build better neighborhoods, create more capable cities and strengthen the public library as an essential part of urban life. For more information or to order the publication please visit: Now that the data and information about the target community group is collected and the gaps in current library programs and services assessed, the library is ready to draft a profile that outlines the ways in which it can be more inclusive of this group. The library will also determine how it can develop and adapt its programs and services to meet the various needs of the group.
Figure 1.5 Understanding the needs of the community and the gaps in library programs and services
Needs Ideas on how to be more inclusive How will this help to better know and/or service this community group?
New programs and/or services
New or diversified collections
New community advisory groups
New or increase representation from the community on: community advisory committees, board of directors, other committees, etc.

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 when using the Audit Tool for Question 1.

Low Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library has not yet begun, or only recently started, to collect information about the community and identify the groups that may be socially excluded. The library may not have had the opportunity to gather data in order to understand the needs and gaps in service, or the library may have only recently started this work.

What should you do? Be Open to Change.

Start to collect information about this community group. Follow the steps found in this chapter to assist with the development of a plan.

Low Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the library has not had the opportunity to collect the information required to identify needs and gaps in service of the target community. The library may have identified the target group and even started a plan of action that requires further consultation.

What should you do? Refine.

Develop and implement the plan of action. Ensure that initiatives have been allocated resources (human and financial), and don’t forget to set target dates for the completion of specific tasks. Refine the plan if it’s not working. Perhaps additional consultation with the target group is required to fully understand their needs and gaps in services. Use the steps in this chapter as a guide for refining this plan of action.

High Status/Low Progress

This may be the case when the library has identified its socially excluded groups and may even have identified their needs. But it may not have had the opportunity to develop a plan for continuing consultation and further information collection.

What should you do? Become Intentional.

The library should ensure that it will collect new and relevant information on this community group on a regular basis. The library should likely consider further consultation with the community group to ensure implementation programs and initiatives, as well as to show marked progress. The library and the working groups responsible for the social inclusion plans will be required to monitor the plan of action and ensure target deadlines are met. Use the steps in this chapter as a guide.

High Status/High Progress

This may be the case when the library consistently updates and refines its community consultation plan, actively seeks up-to-date information about the community, and reports on the achievement of milestones to the board and to the community.

What should you do? Mentor Others.

The library is demonstrating a high capacity to consult with the community and to understand its needs. 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 become more inclusive.

What to do if the library’s Audit scores are not improving year-to-year

The library has committed to completing the Social Inclusion Audit annually, and now that additional years have come around it is apparent that the scores are not improving. What should the library do?

Status Scores are stagnant

This indicates that the approach should likely be amended. The members of the working groups responsible for this work should use these thought-starter questions as part of the process that will jump start efforts.
  • Did we thoroughly and effectively consult with the community groups to receive the information we require?
  • Are we making progress towards achieving what we said we would? If not, why?
  • Have we dedicated enough staff to inclusion initiatives? Why or why not?
  • Did we dedicate sufficient financial resources to inclusion initiatives? Why or why not?
  • Did we follow through on the tips, exercises, and suggestions made in this chapter?

Progress Scores are stagnant

This indicates there may not be enough motivation amongst staff, or insufficient support from the board and management staff. Have the members of the working groups responsible ask themselves:
  • Are staff members motivated to remove barriers to inclusion?
  • Have we discussed the inclusion strategy at staff meetings? What do staff have to say about it? Are they having any problems?
  • Has the library provided sufficient diversity training for staff?
Always go back to the relevant chapter and review the exercises!