Community Engagement

Design Labs

Sno-Isle Libraries

Designing and deliveringdesign labs tailored to Sno Isle Libraries vision: "everyone in our community is connected to their library," with the focus on defining and measuring connectedness.

Project Background

In 2019, Sno-Isle Libraries set the vision: everyone in our community is connected to their library. To assess this vision, they utilized design labs in collaboration with the Athena Group, focusing on the challenge of defining and measuring connection. The selected design challenge prompted collaborative efforts to establish a community-led definition, understanding, and actionable metrics for the library.

Athena worked to create a systematic approach to involve historically underrepresented community members in this decision-making process across all districts served by Sno-Isle Libraries, which included a comprehensive community connectivity framework. This framework is not only applicable within the confines of this project but can also serve as a valuable resource for upcoming community engagement endeavors, communication strategies, community-led assessments, analyses, strategic planning, decision-making processes, and performance measurement activities.

An infographic titled ”Design Challenge Tasks” that has four squares, the first reads ”Gather: Community, Building, Diplomacy, Introduce Challenge. The second reads ”Orient: Divergent Thinking, Ideation with Data, Observation.” The third reads ”Decide: Convergent, Thinking, Methods, Measuring.” The fourth reads ”Act and Reflect: Protyping, Testing, Feasibility, Feedback, What’s Next?”

In response to the design challenge, Athena built a strategic approach by engaging lab members in each district to participate in two distinct design labs. These labs, conducted on different days, were hosted at library locations proximate to participants' residences. The culmination of this collaborative effort transpired during a third lab where all participants converged to refine their work, develop innovative solutions, and test prototypes and ideas for tools that could enhance the library's understanding and measurement of connection.

“Connection is mutual awareness and understanding between the libraries and various community resources; it captures their interests while actively encouraging reciprocal exchange that is representative, inclusive, and equitable.”
– Definition of connection, as determined by lab groups


Lab groups collaboratively crafted a nuanced definition of connection to serve as the foundation for metric development. A suite of methodologies for measuring connection emerged, featuring the establishment of Community Action Resource Teams (CARTs). These teams, organized to foster action-oriented collaboration, provided a crucial feedback loop. A key decision within the CARTs was the adoption of a comprehensive survey as the primary tool for gauging connections, adaptable for both in-person and virtual administration. Recognizing the importance of community engagement, strategic partnerships with schools and organizations serving non-English speaking communities were forged to amplify outreach. This included the recommendation of commencing the measurement process by evaluating awareness, spanning interests, understanding, and resource needs.

Begin the Conversation

The Athena Group partners with organizations, agencies, cities, and leaders to bring their goals to life.