Museums and Libraries: Be a Part of our Brain Building Journey

By Ellen Galinsky
President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute

We are starting an exciting new endeavor, and want you to join us!

In our studies at Families and Work Institute (FWI), we often ask people to come up with a word that describes life today. Again and again, the words that people select reflect feelings of too much to do and not enough time—words like “busy,” “overwhelmed,” “complex,” and “rushed.” Even in our studies of children, we find that almost one in two children feel rushed much of the time.

As the world continues to move faster, museums and libraries have taken on a new role that can best be described by the word “hub.” They are places where families come to be together and to do things with each other. They are sanctuaries—albeit ones that are filled with exciting things to do—that connect children and parents and community members from across neighborhoods. They are also hubs that translate research on “the science of learning” into practice in ways that bring joy and engagement to all involved, young and old.

The report, Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners captures many of the innovative approaches and programs currently in place. Now, libraries and museums are being recognized for the important roles they play, and they are part of an exciting new initiative that we are launching at the Families and Work Institute.

Following the publication of my book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, we began building a network of experts in communities across the country to increase understanding of these Seven Life Skills, also called Executive Function (EF) skills, and the science of brain development that supports it. The book has served as a catalyst for bringing together professionals working across multiple child- and family-serving institutions who are now incorporating these skills into their daily work with families and children.

With this new project, we intend to tap the knowledge, expertise, and resources of libraries and museums. Our goal is to engage museums and libraries as key partners in the work to disseminate information and build capacity for children, families, and practitioners. An understanding of the science of brain development is something that parents and families are hungry for, and museums and libraries provide a unique opportunity to provide that information.

We believe many are already developing innovative approaches to increasing understanding of brain development and how to build life skills in children.  With support from School Readiness Consulting, we are now in the process of gathering information on best practices and innovative approaches being used in libraries and museums across the country. Results will be used to create a national report on how museums and libraries are engaged and contributing to the work.

The report will be released in early 2015 and will include examples and case studies of innovative and effective programs and approaches.

If you work in a museum or library, please visit our website ( to learn more about this initiative, and share information on work you are doing in this area by filling out a brief survey by November 28, 2014.

UPDATE: The survey deadline has been extended to December 22, 2014

Ellen GalinskyEllen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute, helped establish the field of work and family life at Bank Street College of Education, where she was on the faculty for twenty-five years. Her more than forty books and reports include Ask The Children, the now-classic The Six Stages of Parenthood, and the bestselling Mind in the Making, published by HarperStudio in April 2010.

Posted in Early Learning, Education Support | Leave a comment

Interview: Colorado State Library

Eugene Hainer, Director and State Librarian, Colorado State Library

Eugene Hainer, Director and State Librarian, Colorado State Library

IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA 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 post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Michele Farrell interviewing Colorado’s State Librarian Eugene Hainer (EH). Read more about the Colorado State Library’s priorities in IMLS’ state profile for Colorado.


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

EH: Number one was improving access to library material, and supporting educational uses of that material for all ages. As one example, we supported summer reading programs – especially in rural libraries – through a series of mini grants. We also have an active program to identify and work with highly effective school libraries and have those libraries share expertise with others through a series of statewide cohort groups.

Next, we have a great need in the state to consolidate and connect libraries that may be working independently. We try to work with and provide some funding support to the Colorado Library Consortium to get them into networks or otherwise help facilitate their participation in other consortia.

Another priority was finding and funding innovative ideas, such as makerspaces, to encourage people to engage in collaborative activities and to make use of current technologies like 3-D printers. Computer lending programs also really took off, as well as e-books, as a result of some LSTA-funded grants to libraries.


Michele: How do you feel that your last evaluation contributed to putting together your five-year plan for the 2013-2017 cycle?

EH: Through the evaluation and reporting cycle, we could identify successful programs that met their goals and were model projects. Once we get those desirable results, we can support growth in those programs, and we built that into the next five-year plan for 2013-2017.

One example is our Plinkit program for customizable library websites, which has since transitioned fully in-state as Colorado Online Libraries. Other successful projects include our interlibrary loan services and historic newspapers collection, where we use funding for staff support.

Some programs that we identified as successful have the kind of results that serve specific needs like improved access and connecting libraries, which I mentioned earlier. The overall effect of the review on our next five-year plan was that it helped us evaluate, prioritize, and focus on the areas where we thought we wanted to improve or increase our efforts.


Michele: What would you say are the three most important community needs you plan to address through library services in the next five years?

EH: Number one is literacy-related programs. We’re really focusing on children from birth through age five and supplementing traditional K-18 summer reading. One of the initiatives we hope to continue encouraging in the next five years is a “1,000 books by kindergarten” program. Obviously that’s going to take a great deal of resources in the libraries that maybe cannot afford 1,000 books for the kindergartners nor have the programming expertise to encourage it in their communities. State funding for materials, now in a second year of funding, has greatly helped boost collection purchases, especially for early learning and family materials. Another area is increasing libraries’ awareness of building baby and toddler areas into the libraries. While we wouldn’t actually fund any building, we can talk about how these areas can be beneficial and perhaps help leverage some local partnerships.

Number two is improving our resource sharing programs. I think over the next five years we are going to be creating new resource sharing opportunities in response to new products and tools and changing community or library needs.

The third is training librarians and the public. One of our focuses is digital literacy and another is increasing awareness of the need for 21st century skills in schools. We want to get school administrators, in particular, to understand the value of the school library program. We are now in the process of identifying how can we sustain some of the digital literacy training work, and how we can use LSTA funding to leverage other state funding or public-private partnerships that may be available. We’ve had some meetings with the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, and they are starting to sprinkle the word “library” more and more into their work. They are aware that digital literacy is something that is necessary when talking about broadband expansion, so I think this all works together to hopefully achieve better awareness and use of libraries.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Accessibility, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Education Support, Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment

Libraries and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

This article is cross-posted on the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education blog hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor blog

Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor

Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education

Susan Hildreth, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services

Our agencies have long recognized the role of libraries to help meet the workforce training and job search needs of the American public.  At the height of the recession, more than 30 million people reported using library computers for workforce related needs and 3.7 million of them reported finding work.  Today, 96 percent of libraries surveyed offer online job and employment resources and 78 percent offer programs to help people apply for jobs.

In July, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) which strengthens and aligns Federal employment, education, and training servicesOverwhelmingly approved by both the House and the Senate, the legislation is the result of a bipartisan agreement that recognizes the vital role the workforce system plays in providing the services and resources job seekers need to access the kinds of skills training, career information, and education that are required for today’s job market. The Act aligns with and complements the President’s Vision for Job-Driven Workforce Development, as it prepares workers for 21st century jobs and ensures American businesses have skilled workers to be competitive in global economy.

We are pleased that WIOA includes several exciting changes that better align federal resources and call for local community-based partnerships to increase access to services.  WIOA explicitly identifies public libraries as potential partners of the American Job Center network, and acknowledges libraries’ ability to provide an expansive array of job search services. It also recognizes libraries as important providers of federally supported training and employment for adult education and literacy. WIOA instructs state and local workforce development boards to boost “digital literacy skills” at American Job Centers – a task perfectly suited to public libraries!

We are delighted that the role public libraries play in workforce development is being acknowledged. Every day, people in communities across the United States use libraries to access the Web for career development—boosting their skills through online learning, improving their English literacy and digital literacy, and finding work. Public libraries can do even more with better collaboration with state and local workforce boards.

We thank American Job Centers, the nation’s employment skills training programs, and public libraries for all they do to serve our nation’s job seekers and contribute to the country’s economic vitality.   Under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, we will deliver better coordinated services so that students and jobseekers acquire the skills needed in a competitive 21st century economy.

See other collaborative efforts:

Posted in Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Workforce Development/Job Assistance | 2 Comments

StoryCorps Interview: Sam Noble Museum of Natural History

Each year, select museums and libraries with outstanding records of community service receive the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. Beginning with the 2009 awardees, personal stories demonstrating the ongoing impact of these award-winning institutions are being documented through a cooperative agreement between IMLS and StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.

2014 National Medal Winner Sam Noble Museum of Natural History

From left to right: Donovan Spirey and Chip Leslie

From left to right: Donovan Spirey and Chip Leslie

“If we had a magic wand and could do something different for the museum, what would it be?”  

Wildlife Biologist Chip Leslie talks to his 8-year-old grandson, Donovan, about their regular visits to the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma, Donovan’s love of science, and the exhibit he would most like to see.

Listen to their story here:

Download Transcript

Posted in Collections Care/Preservation, Cultural Heritage/Sustainability, Education Support, National Medal for Museum and Library Service, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | 2 Comments