July 11, 2009
Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills

Marsha L. Semmel
IMLS Deputy Director for Museum Services and Director for Strategic Partnerships

Chicago Public Library
July 11, 2009

Thank you, Dr. Radice, for your introduction. I also want to thank the MacArthur Foundation , especially Connie Yowell and Ben Stokes, for this opportunity. Thanks, too, to Mary Dempsey and Amy Eschelman of the Chicago Public Library, and Nicole Pinkard and the members of the Digital Youth Network who are here. I was just talking with Connie about the importance of serendipity, and in some ways, it was wonderful serendipity that has led us to know the people at MacArthur better, as a result of our annual WebWise conference, where we showcase cutting edge work done in the digital space by libraries and museums.

MacArthur Foundation was a wonderful partner in our most recent WebWise conference, and we were all pleased to meet a number of the MacArthur grantees working on digital learning projects. Those conversations led us to where we are today. As MacArthur’s Julia Stasch eloquently noted last night, research is continuing to affirm that much important learning happens outside the classroom, and libraries and museums are core community learning resources. As the learning landscape is changing—especially in response to new technologies—our libraries and museums are adapting to accommodate new learning styles and possibilities.

For our Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills project, we worked with a national task force of library and museum leaders, an internal IMLS team, and the e-Luminate group (a consulting firm specializing in 21st century skills), to position libraries and museums as players in this new learning landscape and to provide a framework for libraries and museums to become even more effective. As the project developed, we met with more than 100 library and museum leaders across the country to get their input.

The project includes three components: a policy report; a self-assessment tool; and an simple online diagnostic tool—all designed to provide the broader context for the 21st century skills movement; a discussion of what our institutions have to contribute to learning across the lifetime; and a rubric helping libraries and museums determine where they fit on a continuum from "early," through "tranisition" to "21st century" across a host of organizational functions and domains.

In important ways, the YouMedia Center embodies the principles in our report:

  • It has been co-created with its users.
  • It builds on research on how youth use new media.
  • It promotes many 21st century skills, such as: ICT literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and innovation, teamwork and collaboration.

And, as we heard last evening from the Carnegie Mellon design team who helped to structure this space, it is only the beginning. The YouMedia Center is a platform that requires the "you"(th) to make it come alive.

Similarly, Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills is a platform, a framework that will only fulfill its promise when libraries and museums read it, tinker with it, kick its tires, share it with colleagues and other partners in the community, push back on it, and make it their own.

Thank you very much.