Museums United: A Convening of State Museum Associations

By Christopher Reich
Senior Museum Advisor, IMLS

The last weekend in March brought over 100 museum professionals to the middle of Arkansas to explore the “state of state museum associations” during a two-and-a-half-day retreat at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art.

Sponsored through a cooperative agreement between IMLS and the American Alliance of Museums, this special initiative’s purpose of is to share, explore, and identify the characteristics of a successful, sustainable state museum association and the barriers to success and sustainability. Over 80 representatives from 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands joined a small group of IMLS and AAM staff members to share ideas about the purpose, characteristics, and services of state museum associations. With facilitation by Randel Consulting Associates, the participants worked in small groups to identify stakeholders and partnership opportunities, while sharing their successes and challenges in meeting the needs of a myriad of diverse museums in their individual states. On the last afternoon, the participants recorded the key commitments they’ve made to help their individual state museum associations be more successful and sustainable. Many of them found a “buddy” to help them follow through on the task in the months to come!

State museums gather around a table for conversation.

We owe our deep appreciation to the staff of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for providing a beautiful and peaceful setting for our convening. The amazing galleries, meeting rooms, and surrounding grounds provided a perfect setting for our group, along with that “southern hospitality” that we all know and love.

The convening was a great learning experience and lots of fun, and it was incredibly inspiring to be reminded once again of the amazing dedication that fuels our field, the remarkable spirit that accomplishes great things with limited resources, and the power of networking to build communities and strengthen practice for people from diverse regions and backgrounds. We applaud the leadership of such talented and enterprising professionals who are supporting museums that are making a difference in the lives of people in communities across the nation!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Celebrating National Poetry Month with the National Student Poets!

Ed note: This is a cross-post from the AYAW Blog.  You can find the original blog post here

The five national student poets pose for a photo in Central Park.

In just a few days, the 2013 Class of National Student Poets will begin to pack their bags and depart to a new city for their National Poetry Month events across the country. They may pack light, some opting for layers over parkas for a spring that yet to sprung. Some may even pack too much after a few last minute pitches into their suitcases. One carry-on item is for certain though: their love for poetry. (“I loafe and invite my soul!”)

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.  (“But I have promises to keep, / and miles to go before I sleep.”)

Beginning this week, Nathan Cummings, age 18 of Mercer Island, WA, will travel to Salt Lake City, UT and lead a free workshop for local teenagers and be a featured reader at the Salt Lake City Library on Saturday, April 5.  On April 10, Michaela Coplen, 18, Carlisle, PA, will fly to Vermont where she will present at the Vermont State House and lead workshops. On April 11, Louis Lafair, 18, Austin, TX, will be a featured scholar and reader at the Round Top Poetry Festival in Round Top, TX alongside poets Jane Hirshfield and Gregory Orr. There are three events on Poem-in-Your Pocket Day, April 24, 2014!

  • Sojourner Ahebee, 18, Interlochen, MI, will be in Cleveland, OH where she will read at three local libraries, lead workshops and distribute poems to the public.
  • Aline Dolinh, 16, Vienna, VA, will be in Frankfort, KY kicking off Kentucky Writers’ Day and reading with Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank Walker!
  • Michaela Coplen ,18, will read at the Academy of American Poets Poetry and the Creative Mind gala at Lincoln Center in New York, NY.

For a listing of free, open and ticketed events, please click here and follow the poets’ experience on Facebook! (Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”).

Inspired? Here are some great ways to celebrate poetry right now: (“I wheeled with the stars.”)

  • Visit your local library branch and borrow a few collections of poetry! Not sure where to begin? Some of the poets the National Student Poets are reading are: AiNatasha TrethewayDean YoungTerrance Hayes and Joy Harjo!
  • Check out the Academy of American Poets’ 30 Ways to Celebrate. Some of our favorite ideas are: playing an exquisite corpse, taking a poem out to lunch and attending an open-mic (or even starting your own!).
  • Participate in the Academy of American Poets’ Poet-to-Poet ProjectSTUDENTS: Submit your response by April 30, 2014 to and your work may be published on the website.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Student Poets Program (NSPP), the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Five outstanding high school poets whose work exhibits exceptional creativity, dedication to craft, and promise are selected annually for a year of service as national poetry ambassadors.

Posted in Meet the National Student Poets | 1 Comment

Interview: Georgia Public Library Service

IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012) and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This blog post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Michele Farrell interviewing Georgia State Librarian Lamar Veatch, Deputy State Librarian Julie Walker, and then-Assistant State Librarian for Library Development Alan Harkness. Read more about the Georgia Public Library Service’s priorities in the state profile for Georgia.

Michele: What were the three most important community needs you sought to address through library services between 2008 and 2012?

Julie: We like projects that involve resource sharing, such as our Galileo databases that each individual library couldn’t afford on their own. We also stress our electronic linkages and adequate bandwidth for IT services in every corner of the state. One of the big projects that we use IMLS funds for is our PINES [Public Information Network for Electronic Services] program, which is our integrated library system. About 300 of our 400 libraries participate in PINES and have a shared catalog. Any cardholder in the system can place holds on items and the program’s courier service will deliver them to their home library for pick up. We also put funds into children and family literacy services projects – our Prime Time program, our summer reading – things that we can initiate here centrally and then push out to all our libraries.

Alan: Prime Time allows us to focus on preschool-aged children and families with the greatest need, and the measured outcomes have been significant. We also participate in the cooperative summer reading program nationally, and we purchase materials for every library system statewide. About 300,000 children throughout the state participated in summer reading club last year.

Michele: How did the evaluation of programs and initiatives developed over the 2008-2012 cycle affect your state plans for the 2013-2017 cycle? 

Julie: The surveys gave us some good feedback from our constituents on what programs they value and appreciate. We found it extremely valuable in looking at programs they felt were best handled at a state level compared to the things that they feel they do best individually. Ultimately there is fundamental support in Georgia for using the funds the way we do, which is on behalf of all the libraries as opposed to just handing out small individual grants.

Michele: What are the three most important community needs you plan to address through the grant funds in the next five years?

Lamar: We’re really beginning to focus on approaches to getting adequate bandwidth. The landscape has changed so much with bandwidth access that our focus now will be on assisting the individual library systems in contracting at a local level, where we see that the cost is significantly less than a statewide contract. The focus on early, pre-literacy skills is also going to be a big part of our next five-year program. We’re calling it B4 – birth to 4 – or before they go to kindergarten, before they fall behind.

Alan: We’re looking at a number of areas for early literacy. Right now we’re working on pushing the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program out to the library systems. We’re looking at models that would allow us to provide some kind of learning partnership with the childcare providers statewide: Head Start, the daycares, and the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL).

Lamar: We want to address this part of the education spectrum where we think public libraries are uniquely qualified and positioned. We can’t play in the K-12 pool very well – we’re a small fish in that big pool—but we think we can be a big fish in the pre-K area.

Julie: One of the newer things is our Continuing Education efforts. There’s a lot of demand, and we have wonderful expertise here on our staff. In terms of our services to persons with disabilities, we’re going to make some tactical changes to the way we provide that service in the next five years, looking at the most efficient and effective way to serve persons with disabilities through our Talking Books program.

Lamar: We’re trying to be in a position to be nimble when the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped makes changes, and it looks like they’re making significant changes. We want to be in a position to react and to work along with them.

Posted in Accessibility, Broadband, Early Learning, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, Information Infrastructure/Systems/Workflows | Leave a comment

Training for Librarians in Florida Tackles Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Nancy Everhart
Director, PALM Center
School of Information, Florida State University

Though parents of children with autism spectrum disorders would love to give their kids the opportunities afforded by public libraries, they are sometimes hesitant to take them to public places like libraries. Knowing these parents would feel more comfortable if librarians had more training and strategies to help their children be successful in that environment, my colleague Juliann Woods and I set out to provide that professional development for librarians. We are leading a team at Florida State University (FSU) in reaching out to librarians to effectively serve both children and adults through an initiative called Project PALS or Panhandle Autism Library Services.

Photo of a librarian helping an autistic teenager.

Currently, there’s little training available to librarians on how to best serve patrons with autism. What there is usually falls under the umbrella of working with persons with general disabilities, or it takes place at a national conference that not everyone can attend.

With grants from FSU and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Project PALS is creating professional development modules for librarians, particularly those in rural areas who might not have access to training opportunities. We hope these training modules will better prepare librarians in rural areas to help library visitors on the autism spectrum.

Through this project, we have traveled throughout the Florida Panhandle conducting focus groups and interviews with adults who have an autism spectrum disorder and children’s caregivers. These groups have helped clarify the wants and needs of this community and how librarians can help their patrons.

These interviews also helped organize our project into four online professional development modules — About Autism, Arranging the Library Environment, Social Networking and Interacting with Technology, and Communicating with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

So far, we’ve shot video of both children and adults with autism at the Leon County Eastside Branch Library participating in various library activities. One of our FSU doctoral students, who is also a children’s librarian at the branch, conducted a story time for children with autism along with other children. We recorded adults using computers to find information on personal needs.

The first edited multimedia interactive self-paced module will soon be finished by the Florida Center for Interactive Media and vetted by our advisory board. The remaining three modules are being outlined as we speak and ultimately distributed to area librarians. The tested modules will also be offered nationwide in the future.

Other project PALS collaborators include the FSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD); the Panhandle Library Access Network (PLAN); the Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected project (Scotch Plains, NJ); Syracuse University’s Project ENABLE; an advisory board; and public, school, and academic libraries in the Florida Panhandle.


Posted in Accessibility, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy) | 2 Comments