In April, I had the opportunity to share the Institute’s work on 21st century skills with more than 160 library professionals gathered in Rome, Italy, for a series of educational events organized by the U.S. Embassy in Rome and the American University of Rome. During an April 20th webinar, I briefed international library staff on "Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills," IMLS’s multi-faceted initiative that suggests ways in which libraries and museums can promote 21st century skills in their organizations and communities. Professionals in Serbia, Belgrade, Mexico, and Kenya asked me about the evolving role of libraries and librarians in their communities in the Internet age, the applicability of IMLS’s 21st century skills initiative to international museums and libraries, and whether IMLS can fund international projects (we can, as long as the project is led by an eligible U.S. entity). I was impressed by their depth of understanding and wide-ranging curiosity. Our 21st century skills project was also an important topic of discussion in my meeting with Mario Resca, director general for the management and promotion of the culture heritage in the Ministry for Culture Heritage and Activities of Italy.
We are not alone in trying to figure out what our economy and citizenry need to succeed in a knowledge society. Europeans, led by groups such as the Lisbon Council for Economic Competitiveness and Social Renewal have launched initiatives that bring government, business, and individuals together to develop the skills and human capital that Europe needs to excel in a fast-moving global economy. I’m sure there’s much we can learn from efforts made in Europe and other parts of the world. To provide a framework for our international exchanges, IMLS is strengthening its international strategic partnership initiative. To learn more, please read our new publication, Through Strengthening Connections, Advancing Global Understanding.
Before leaving Rome, I met with representatives of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), an intergovernmental organization dedicated to enhancing the field of conservation and raising awareness of the importance and fragility of our cultural heritage. They were particularly interested in the Connecting to the World’s Collections: Making the Case for the Conservation and Preservation of Our Cultural Heritage, a meeting of 60 cultural heritage leaders from 32 countries that IMLS convened with the Salzburg Global Seminar last fall.
Through these exchanges, I learned that cultural organizations in all quarters of the world are facing the challenges of redefining sustainability, providing broader access to knowledge, engaging diverse audiences in new ways, and leveraging the learning potential of digital technology. This exchange reinforced my own conviction that museums and libraries can be significant players in the creation of strategic collaborations in our global knowledge society.
- Marsha L. Semmel, Acting Director, IMLS
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.