Citizens practice civic engagement
Seward Community Library Museum
Seward residents gather to talk about why they live here as part of an ongoing series of discussions.
What a community we live in. Most of us believe that is has been the wettest, coldest summer on record. Yet more than 20 people descended down into the windowless library conference room on Aug. 28, forsaking one of the nicest days of this summer to talk about why we live here.
Why would people do this? The Seward Community Library Museum staff has been working with a small group to create a program of civic engagement; people talking together about their community and/or issues of interest and importance. This particular event used the appreciative inquiry approach, which involved brainstorming the positive qualities of our community. While this sounds easy there was some frustration about not being able to rant on a topic with someone even voicing, “But what about the negatives?”
After indulging in “hearty soup and bread” from Ranting Raven, participants were asked to share their reasons for living in Seward and what keeps them here. They were asked to describe those reasons in terms of community attributes. For example the comment, “When I arrived I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” referred to our spectacular scenery and environment. In this way the group was able to develop a list of eight community attributes: natural setting and environment, great place to raise a family, transportation, sense of community, self-sufficient town, history, economic diversity; social and civic opportunities. These attributes may sound barren without the discussion that created them, but rest assured they will lend themselves to lively discussions in the future.
When participants were asked how they felt about the event, responses included “much different than I thought” and “I found out things I didn’t know about.”
Library Museum staff will contact volunteers to begin planning the next discussion once we are settled in the new building.
Special thanks to all the participants for their time and enthusiasm. Thanks to Sue McClure, Laurie Morrow, Kerry Romig, Jacob Sears and Kyle Schneider for serving on the planning committee. Thanks to Bill Hall and Dick LaFever for their expert guidance. Special thanks to Mary Kulstad at the Hotel Seward for donating lodging for Mr. LaFever. And finally thanks to Rachel James and Tim Morrow for making every library event run smoothly. You all make our community good and we look forward to meeting up again at the library museum.