Apply for Building Common Ground

Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion is a collaboration between the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute. The library programs associated with Building Common Ground are funded by a grant from the Fetzer Institute to the American Library Association.

  • Congratulations to the thirty public libraries awarded Building Common Ground programming grants! To view a list of the participating libraries, click here.


The goal of the Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion project is to engage the public in contemplation and discussion of the importance of community, civility and compassion in their daily lives. By bringing adult audiences together for programs and events that include reading, viewing, reflection, discussion and civic engagement initiatives, public libraries will enhance the quality of life and learning in their communities.

Reflection · Engagement · Action

The programming resources developed and brought together for this initiative represent a wide array of media, content and format. They have been selected because of their connection with the themes of Community, Civility, and Compassion. Building on the content of the suggested programming templates are three different approaches to programming: REFLECTION, ENGAGEMENT, ACTION. These approaches have been developed to link programs to audience outcomes. For example, by participating in a screening of Forgiveness and the following discussion series, audiences will reflect on the themes of compassion, civility and community in the film; by attending a library-sponsored service fair, patrons will be invited to take action in their communities; by coordinating a Common Ground Tour, libraries will engage patrons in discussions of collective memory and sites of significance to the community.

Grants to Libraries

Thirty public libraries will be awarded $2,500 grants nationally. Participating libraries will identify local issues that might be informed and illuminated by discussions of community, compassion, civility and use those issues as the impetus for assembling multi-format program series. By assembling a multi-format series of 4-8 programs, issues of local significance will be discussed through the lenses of community, compassion or civility. Building Common Ground participants will discover the opportunity to reflect on content, engage with issues through discussion, and learn of opportunities to take action on behalf of their communities.

Libraries will be required to collaborate with at least one community organization with a scope of activity and interest in the same issues identified for the program series. All speakers and presenters must be confirmed at the time of proposal submission. Proposals without complete program dates and required attachments will not be considered.

For more information on this program, or if you have any difficulties with the application, please contact the ALA Public Programs Office at 312.280.5045, or