Civility Goes Viral

Creating a Culture, Leading the Way

by Valerie J. Gross


Your library—be it a public, school, or academic library—is naturally and ideally suited to effect change and bring the "choose civility" movement to your community. This book explains not just why, but how.

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January 2019

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 200
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Adult Services and Programs/General
  Librarianship: Philosophy, Values, and Issues/Information and Society/Culture
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This book details the civility movement in libraries, describing the key components of the initiative and serving as a guide for other libraries and community organizations to join this important nationwide effort.

The recurring pattern of civil unrest involving violence and death resulting from disrespect, intolerance, or hate over the past decades have revealed profound problems in our society. Additionally, the advent of Internet communication and mass media seems to have fostered a polarized culture where disrespect, bullying, and hateful speech have become commonplace, even condoned. As a nation, we need to embrace civility—and your library can take the lead.

This book documents how libraries have risen to the challenge and established themselves as centers not just for community engagement, but for conscious and mutually respectful discourse. Written by Valerie J. Gross, a founder of Howard County's Choose Civility initiative in 2006, this book explains how nearly any library can follow this well-established initiative example—now more than 100 Alliance Partners strong—to invite community members to choose respect, empathy, and consideration at every opportunity when interacting with others at work and in their personal lives. The author details the movement across the United States, describes the components of the initiative that are key to success, and guides other libraries and community organizations such as hospitals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations in joining the effort. In short, it presents libraries and other groups with a blueprint for launching a civility initiative in their communities. Sample communications and promotional materials are also included in this guide.


  • Demonstrates an exciting and dynamic way for libraries to expand their role within their communities and increase their relevance
  • Offers concrete instructions on how to join this growing movement—both within and beyond libraries—that has recently gained a great deal of momentum
  • Explains how to collaborate and partner with businesses and other organizations in the community for mutual benefit
Author Info

Valerie J. Gross, MM, MLS, JD, is president and CEO of the top-ranked Howard County Library System (HCLS) in Columbia, MD, and a passionate promoter of public libraries. She published an article on this topic in Public Libraries. A passionate promoter of civility, Gross and the HCLS team began Howard County's Choose Civility initiative in 2006. Now 125 Alliance Partners strong, Choose Civility has become part of the fabric of the community. In 2004, Library Journal named her a "Mover and Shaker." Gross was recipient of the 2012 and 2010 Public Libraries Feature Article Contest award. She is author of Libraries Unlimited's Transforming Our Image, Building Our Brand: The Education Advantage.

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Open Conversations cover imageTransforming Our Image, Building Our Brand cover image

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