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The Commons: A Library With a Difference

September 17, 2019

Not all libraries are found in bricks and mortar buildings. There are many libraries that are wholly online. One such library in Australia is The Commons, a social change library that collects, curates and distributes the key lessons and resources of progressive movements around Australia and across the globe.

This online library is a space for education and learning. The collections include articles, manuals, training materials and practical guides to inform and equip you to influence public policy and engage in political structures.

At the Commons they gather the best campaigning and organising resources from Australia and around the world, including:

  • monitoring needs and emerging trends;
  • encouraging people to share their knowledge with each other by contributing to the library’s collections;
  • connecting people with the knowledge that will enrich their work; and
  • amplifying existing capacity building endeavours.
  • The Commons is an Australian initiative with global inputs and ripples.

The name ‘the Commons’ references the common good, the shared property of all people. It is free of cost to use and does not operate for profit. It is committed to being accessible to the breadth of the Australian public. It aims to overcome barriers to access including those related to ability, education levels, language, income, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and any other oppression or systemic disadvantage.

Holly Hammond is the Commons Library Director. Holly brings over 25 years of social change experience to this role, with almost 15 of those years spent supporting movements to be more effective through training, facilitation and coaching. An important aspect of her work has been writing, sourcing, editing and distributing articles and educational resources. Holly answered a few questions for Better Reading.

Tell us about the library.

The Commons Social Change Library is an online resource freely available to anyone with an internet collection. We gather resources from Australia and around the world, with a broad range of topics covered including campaign strategy, organising, digital campaigning, communications and media, working effectively in groups, diversity and inclusion and much more.

We have a small team of three part-time librarians focused on updating the website, spreading the word through social media and events, and responding to queries.

People who are working towards social or ecological justice goals tend to be extremely busy with limited financial resources. It’s hard for people to find the time to track down information or develop skills while they are responding to big challenges. We support their important work by making information accessible.

What are your plans for the next year? Are there any programs or events you’re planning that we should know about?

This year we are continuing to expand the library collection and promote awareness of the Commons. We have a new topic area launching soon on Creative Activism that will highlight some really inspiring ways to use art and other creative approaches to get people’s attention and change public debate.

What are you reading right now, or what are you looking forward to reading?

We’re excited about Sally Rugg’s book How Powerful We Are: Behind the Scenes with One of Australia’s Leading Activists and George Lakey’s book How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning.

Everyone can visit the Commons Social Change Library.







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