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Museums and Libraries Can Promote 21st Century Skills

April 17, 2012 ET

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Since our Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills initiative was launched in 2009 we have been inspired by the stories of many libraries and museums that are taking action to become 21st century institutions. They are “embedded” in their communities providing opportunities for individuals and organizations to co-create and co-deliver audience-centered learning experiences across the entire community. With the recognition that learning happens throughout the lifetime and that in fact MOST learning happens outside of the formal classroom setting, our libraries and museums are powerhouses that have a true stake in sparking countless opportunities for learning new skills.

One of the first IMLS events I attended as Director was a 21st Century Skills workshop in Detroit, Michigan. Along with library and museum representatives the room was full of community leaders with diverse roles, from economic development, education, and health care to corporate and charitable foundations. Together they recalled their most powerful learning experiences and imagined the skills that workers of the future will need for success: collaboration, creativity, communication and civic engagement, were among them. The conversation was animated and forward-looking and soon the group was forming new alliances and partnerships to address some of the community’s most vexing problems.

Just this week we released new multimedia resources that can help libraries and museums work within their institutions and throughout their communities to learn why 21st century skills are so important and to re-imagine how to use their digital and physical learning spaces to create learner-centered relevant programs and services.

I encourage you to take leadership in your own community and visit our new Museums, Libraries and 21st Century Skills website to download the report, take the self-assessment, read the latest research, watch videos and hear first-hand stories of success. There are also powerful tools you can use to create your own community workshops. These resources have been developed together with hundreds of library and museum professionals. So, dig in and let us know how your institution is thinking about the future in new ways.