Originally posted on IMLS Web site at http://www.imls.gov.
About the project
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) 21st Century Skills project underscores the critical role of our nation’s museums and libraries in helping citizens build such 21st century skills as information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.
Recognizing that every individual requires these competencies to succeed in 21st century life and work, IMLS offers the Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills project to:
- Support museums and public libraries in envisioning and defining their roles as institutions of learning in the 21st century;
- Enhance understanding among policymakers and other stakeholders about the integral roles museums and libraries play in creating an engaged citizenry and competitive workforce.
Specifically, this work aims to help library and museum leaders:
- Envision the library/museum’s role in providing lifelong learning experiences, specifically around 21st century skills;
- Inventory the 21st century skills and practices currently in use by the library/museum;
- Identify goals for future operation and program improvements;
- Build awareness among policymakers and the public about the unique value these institutions provide to the nation’s learning systems.
Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills includes three components:
The Report: the following pages outline a vision for the role of libraries and museums in the national dialogue around learning and 21st century skills; this report also includes case studies of innovative audience engagement and 21st century skills practices from across the country.
The Self-Assessment Tool: the tool included in this report allows museums and libraries to determine where they fit on the continuum of 21st century skills operations and programming.
The Online Self-Assessment (www.imls21stcenturyskills.org): this brief interactive survey quickly analyzes an institution’s 21st century strategies and describes next steps for action.
The initiative began with the assembly of a Task Force of leading thinkers in the field, who helped identify and define the many new contexts facing libraries and museums, such as the evolution of the global economy and the need for 21st century skills. The Task Force met with the IMLS Project Team throughout the course of a year, from June 2008 to June 2009, to refine the central concepts and review key drafts.
In addition to the Task Force meetings, IMLS conducted a series of vetting sessions with leading museum and library individuals to review and enhance the work.
Two Project Profiles
Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library
The “Raising Readers through Programs and Outreach” initiative illustrates the Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library’s commitment to a critical community need: basic literacy.
The program came about as a result of the library’s facilitation of meetings, surveys, and interviews, all of which pointed to the need for pre-literacy and reading incentive programs that involve parents and caregivers in the early childhood learning process. The project develops and presents library and outreach programs emphasizing pre-literacy for pre-school children and their families, develops and implements reading incentive programs for school age children, and expands the library collection with materials that address pre-reading skills and promote pre-literacy.
Through this program, the Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library has established itself as a leader in strengthening relationships within the native cultural community by bringing entire families—children, parents, and caregivers—together for storytelling and reading activities with staff. Although initial attendance was quite low, the addition of a Youth Services Librarian (made possible by a grant from IMLS) has dramatically increased attendance and interest in reading and storytelling workshops. In just seven months, the Youth Services Librarian conducted 103 storytelling sessions with 1,132 attendees. The librarian expanded the storytelling activities beyond the library through visits to schools and early childhood centers. Now, when he arrives at a preschool, the children enthusiastically declare “The LIBRARY is here!” and quickly take their places on the reading rug.
At each session, the librarian provides a list of recommended titles for parents to read outside of the library with their families, along with take-home handouts that emphasize the pre-reading skills covered by that day’s session. The books, songs and activities in the program are all based on recommended titles from the “Every Child Ready to Read” (ECRR) program, which also integrates participant evaluations, the results of which help staff measure the impact of the lessons and provide recommendations for future workshops.
The impact of the program on the local community has been dramatic, as circulation rates of the library’s books, particularly children’s books, have increased significantly. Such evidence that Pueblos are reading more books outside of the library is particularly energizing to library staff and the overall community as well.
Miami-Dade Public Library
The Miami-Dade County Public Library System embodies the ethic of service to community. It is viewed first and foremost as a community resource – a place where people can get what they need in a trusted setting with experienced, hands-on assistance.
“When we hire, we ask the candidate: Why do you want to work in the library? If they say: Because I really love books – that’s the wrong answer. This job is about people!” Raymond Santiago, Director, Miami-Dade County Public Library System
Miami-Dade County has a diverse population in more than 30 separate towns with almost indistinguishable boundaries between them, resulting in an absence of natural city centers. The public library system has addressed this challenge by becoming a leader in the community through its transformative vision of the library as a place where people can congregate.
The public library system’s leadership vision has been put into practice by its 5-Star Customer Service Initiative. The initiative’s vision: “The library will be a compelling community destination by providing a Five-Star Customer Experience.”
The work of each library is framed around the customer experience; each institution plays an active role in the town by aggregating community information, partnering with local community organizations, and providing 24/7 access to resources whenever possible.
For example, the state of Florida has an extensive e-government portal with numerous social and public services available online. However, a large percentage of the population in Miami-Dade County lacks basic computer skills. The Miami-Dade Public Library System responded to this community need by creating and developing technology literacy programs for adults, many of whom are seniors. A vibrant technology literacy program now teaches over 200 adults every month. It is common for library staff and volunteers to witness a grandparent connecting with a distant grandchild through e-mail or Facebook for the very first time. Senior citizens also learn communication and civic awareness skills in the Seniors Telling Stories program, which connects them to college professors who are trained to teach them how to craft and share their personal stories. The seniors then debut their stories as part of the Art of Storytelling festival at their local libraries and community centers.
Miami-Dade Public Library is equally committed to addressing issues relating to equal access. The Service for the Homebound program provides books-by-mail to individuals of all ages who are unable to visit the library in person due to chronic illness, physical disability, and/or frailties of age. This group of people is able to access basic reading services to advance and learn basic literacy, and continue to stay connected to their community through the libraries’ services.
Miami-Dade Public Library leaders hold themselves accountable to the 5-Star Initiative through customer surveys. Survey results are reported quarterly to ensure each library is focusing on delivering the best possible service, in the best possible environment, to each customer.
The vision of customer service in the 5-Star Initiative and the partnerships with community organizations reflect a commitment toward servicing the needs of the local Miami-Dade County community, over and above collecting and checking out books. The 5-Star Initiative is truly transformational in that the library system acts as the community “center” the area really needs.
Institute of Museum and Library Services (2009). Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills (IMLS-1009-NAI-01), Washington, DC.