Image of Audrey BarbakoffOur October Instructor Spotlights Audrey Barbakoff, founder and CEO of Co/Lab Capacity LLC. Audrey has over a decade of experience as a librarian and manager in public libraries, ranging from a tiny rural library in Connecticut to a 50-branch system in Washington state. Audrey's innovative library work has been recognized by Library Journal Movers & Shakers, the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal "40 Under 40", the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the Urban Libraries Council. Audrey holds a doctorate in organizational change and leadership.  Audrey is teaching three classes this month as part of her Inclusive Innovation in Libraries series: Six Skills for Inclusive Leaders on November 9, Plan for Success with Community-Led Strategies on November 16, and Design Thinking in Libraries on November 30.

Let's learn a little more about Audrey.

Audrey, I believe we met at PLA in Portland if my memory serves me correctly. Can you tell us what prompted you to create these classes for your track, Inclusive Innovation in Libraries?

Since I’m fortunate to work with libraries all over the country, I get a big-picture view of the issues that libraries are facing and the goals they want to achieve. I see a lot of libraries focused on equity and inclusion, which is so needed in our profession and our communities. And I also see a lot of libraries looking to think about their work in new ways. We’re coming out of this time of immense change, and libraries are starting to think about what’s going to be desirable and sustainable going forward. But I don’t always see those two conversations happening together! And they really, really need to. You can’t create innovative, responsive services for the community if you don’t have a culture of inclusion and belonging and psychological safety in your organization. So my track is all about knitting those ideas together, and showing people how amazing innovation and a culture of inclusion really lift each other up.

What are you hoping students will gain from these courses? If there is one main takeaway, what would you like students to take back and implement immediately in their libraries?

I want to see libraries build cultures that support fantastic new ideas, but in a way that welcomes the voices of all staff so that they can authentically responds to diverse communities. Since that’s way too big for any one student to do alone, I hope participants in my courses will develop a community-led, equity-centered mindset that they can spread in their organizations. And I’ll provide some practical tools they can use to help them take concrete steps in that direction.

Can you tell us about Co/Lab Capacity LLC? What inspired you to create Co/Lab Capacity and how can one get involved?

Co/Lab Capacity LLC is a consulting practice that helps libraries center the voices of their communities. I infuse that perspective into many types of services: strategic planning and annual work plans, program design and evaluation, leadership and team development, and executive coaching.

After more than a decade working in public libraries, I was inspired to start the company by my doctoral dissertation research. I worked with librarians around the country to study how libraries could increase their capacity for equity, diversity, and inclusion through community-led planning. With roots in both scholarly methods and practical perspective, I saw a way to make a real difference for libraries and their communities. I want to help libraries see their own power, and show their communities how incredible they truly are!

If you also love libraries and community engagement, you can sign up for my free monthly newsletter at There’s going to be some exciting news coming in the next few months … a book from ALA Editions, and an exclusive invitation to the next phase of growing community together … so this is a perfect time to sign up!

Now for fun, tell us something fun about you? What are you listening to, reading, or watching that you recommend right now?

I’m a children’s book author! My first picture book will be coming out in Spring 2024. I write updated twists on the traditional Jewish folktales and humor I grew up with.

I’ll tell you what I’m not reading right now (because I’m 198th on the holds list) but I wish I were! The Golden Enclaves is the just-released third installment of Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series. Imagine if Harry Potter was a scathingly sarcastic biracial teen sorceress prophesied to enact extreme evil, and Hogwarts was actively trying to murder all the students. The first two books were hilariously dark, dryly witty, and incredibly endearing – and I can’t wait for more. I’m over the moon to have Anisha Dadia back as the audiobook narrator, too.