January 10, 2017


Press Contact
Giuliana Bullard, 202-653-4799

Report Describes New Frameworks for Museums and Libraries to Strengthen Community Involvement

Washington, DC – A new report from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Reinvestment Fund provides insights for libraries and museums to connect with their communities in newer and deeper ways. Produced as part of the Community Catalyst initiative, the 59-page report is a handbook for libraries and museums to position themselves as critical sites within broader social and institutional networks that support community wellbeing.

Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change: Museums and Libraries as Community Catalysts combines findings from a literature scan and input from the library, museum and community revitalization fields with case studies about the experiences and vision of museums and libraries working to spur change in their communities. It describes the complementary conceptual frameworks of social wellbeing and collective impact and explains how libraries and museums can use these concepts to partner with community-based organizations, government agencies and other cultural or educational organizations. It catalogs how partnerships are initiated; what tools and methods are available to assess community need and evaluate impact; and the skills and competencies needed to sustain partnerships.

“The Community Catalyst Initiative is our response to requests from libraries, archives, and museums for tools and resources that will enable them to further their efforts to spark catalytic change in communities,” said IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew. “This report is a milestone in the Community Catalyst initiative and will be an invaluable tool for many years to come.”

The Community Catalyst initiative began with the development of an environmental scan document, administered by Reinvestment Fund and University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project and based on literature reviews, site visits and phone interviews with museum and library staff from across the country.  The preliminary document was used as a “conversation starter” during a Town Hall in Philadelphia in September, with more than 60 representatives of the LAM (Library, Archives, and Museum) field, as well as funders and community development practitioners. Feedback from Town Hall participants was incorporated into the new report.  The Town Hall was also supported by the William Penn Foundation.

The initiative continues in 2017 with a Community Catalyst blog series this month and listening sessions throughout the year.