Integrating Libraries and Museums in State-Level Early Learning Strategies

Photo of Susan HildrethBy Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

More than 400 museum, library and early childhood experts registered to attend a webinar on “Expanding the Reach of Early Learning and Development Systems for Libraries and Museums.” This was another important milestone in our work to encourage greater and more intentional collaboration among these groups. It was part of our partnership work with the BUILD Initiative.

The BUILD Initiative was launched in May 2002 by a consortium of private foundations. Its aim is to stimulate public investments in early learning and help coordinate programs, policies, and services for young children that often operate in insolation and without enough resources to meet critical needs.

Museum and library leaders share the desire of early childhood leaders to create high quality learning opportunities for young children. Many state-level efforts to support young children’s growth and development focus narrowly on formal institutions, such as preschools and public health systems. But children live in families, and their lives are really shaped by family and community. Museums and libraries serve families and are valuable community assets.

For the past few years, the Institute of Museum and Library Services worked intensively with partners at the federal and national level and through grants to local institutions for early education. With the BUILD Initiative, we will examine how to better integrate libraries and museums into state systems.

Our project will start with five pilot states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington. In each state, BUILD will help form a team that includes early learning leaders with a deep understanding of state program standards (QRIS), early learning standards (birth to 5), and the ways that early childhood plans, policies and programs operate, as well as representatives from state library agencies, public libraries, and museums. Teams may also include local community leaders with expertise in important early childhood issues such as literacy or obesity.

While some states have included museums and libraries at the heart of their early childhood systems work, most have not. While many museums and libraries have engaged in exemplary early learning activities, most have not aligned with state systems-building efforts. Our collaboration with BUILD over the coming year will create connections between museums and libraries and early childhood systems builders to better support young children.

I hope you will follow this effort and let us know how your library or museum is engaging at the state level to improve the quality of early learning experiences for children and their families.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Director's Messages, Early Learning, Education Support, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy) | Leave a comment

Library Services Training in the Pacific Region

By James Lonergan
Senior Program Officer, IMLS

This past May, I hosted grantees from three U.S. Pacific Territories: American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI); and three U.S.-affiliated Freely Associated States: the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in Honolulu, Hawaii at the 2014 IMLS Library Services Grants to the Pacific Region Training Workshop. These meetings, held every other year for the Pacific island grantees, provide them an opportunity to discuss their projects with IMLS staff and with each other, share best practices, and obtain professional development training. This year, the meeting included a component on making library services accessible.

Pacific workshop participants.

Participants presented on the programs and services they are supporting with IMLS funds. Highlights of the presentations included:

Jane Barnwell from Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) and Dr. Yvonne Chandler from the University of North Texas presented on the Library Education for the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific (LEAP) project, an IMLS-funded joint initiative between PREL and UNT which supported 21 students from the Pacific region in obtaining their MLS degrees. This included Justin Maga, who attended our training, representing the Feleti Barstow Public Library in American Samoa.

Participants visit to the Hawaii Library for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (LBPH).

Participants visit to the Hawaii Library for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (LBPH).

A special focus of the workshop was services to people with disabilities. Our grantees participated in an interactive online tutorial from the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies called “Positive Interactions: Making the Library a Welcoming and Empowering Place for People with Disabilities,” presented by Brenda Hough. Several grantees noted that the tutorial gave them useful ideas for improving the accessibility of their libraries and the programs and services that they offer.

We also visited the Hawaii Library for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (LBPH), where we toured the Library and were given an assistive technology demonstration. The Guam Public Library System serves as a sub-regional LBPH.

Our participants rated the workshop highly on their evaluation forms, and they told us the various presentations and meetings gave them good ideas that they could use back home in their libraries, archives and museums.

Posted in Accessibility, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Collections Care/Preservation, Cultural Heritage/Sustainability, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational | Leave a comment

IMLS Convenings Focus on Learning Spaces, STEM

By Maura Marx
Deputy Director for Library Services, IMLS

Editor’s Note: IMLS recently hosted a series of three strategic priority meetings, each focused on a different priority. The sessions were designed to help inform future strategies, particularly for the agency’s National Leadership Grant program. The first, held at the New York Public Library on April 29, examined national digital initiatives. The second, held at the San Francisco Public Library on May 15, addressed learning spaces in libraries, and the third, held at the Chicago Public Library on June 5, focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Over the past few months, we’ve been processing the rich commentary of our colleagues, fellow funders, and subject experts from our strategic priority meetings this past spring. Following discussion of the national digital platform in April, our conversations turned to learning spaces in libraries in May and to STEM in June. These two convenings offered several overlapping strands of thought.

At the learning spaces in libraries convening in San Francisco, our discussion examined maker spaces, learning labs and digital commons—any and all library spaces that enable participatory learning. We delved deeply into connected learning, partnerships, and evaluation of the types of learning happening in these informal spaces. The Bay Area Maker Faire provided a fantastic backdrop to our conversation and we were thrilled to be able to draw on the expertise of a fantastic group of colleagues from public, state, and academic libraries, the research community, library schools, associations, nonprofits and other funders.

Next, at the STEM learning in libraries convening in Chicago, we shared existing models of informal STEM learning and discussed the challenges of scale, content expertise, and diversity. Again, we heard recurring themes of hooks and triggers for youth, the role of mentors, and the importance of co-design.

Several related takeaways emerged:

First and foremost, we heard continuous questions about the library workforce and the facilitation, technology, and community building skills that are needed to support youth and STEM programming. Should librarians have these skills? If yes, how do they go about learning them? If no, can partnerships alone fill the gaps? If somewhere in the middle: how are library schools adapting to the shift toward participatory learning, and how does that extend to continuing education for library professionals? Participants also expressed a need for national platforms to share best practices learned through initiatives such as the Learning Labs, supported by IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation.

We wrestled continuously with the subject of evaluation. One funder called on the library community to help shape new measures and outcomes that would truly describe the valuable learning happening in our spaces. We discussed digital badges at length as a potential solution for sharing competencies across formal and informal learning contexts. We agreed that we’ll need to research and work on developing measures that won’t interrupt the flow of informal learning.

Convening videos and notes are posted here—please take a look! All three IMLS Focus meetings have helped inform priorities in this year’s National Leadership Grants program. Please note that we’ve added an October 2014 deadline and are working on a streamlined application process. We’re incorporating a preliminary proposal into our application process so that applicants will find out, before doing the work of putting together a complete application package, whether or not their proposal is most closely aligned with the agency’s funding priorities. The preliminary proposal process has many benefits. Because of the shorter format, applicants invest less time upfront, still get feedback early on, and have better “odds” for funding when submitting full proposals.  We look forward to seeing how this new system works, and we thank everyone involved in IMLS Focus for their thoughtful contributions.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Education Support, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment