The Institute of Museum and Library Services invites you to join a national conversation to challenge museums and libraries to achieve their full capacity as educators in an information age. Museums, Libraries and the 21st Century Learner initiative will result in a network of leadership, ideas, resources and inspiration designed to harness the unique power of museums and libraries with the unprecedented possibility of the information age. The goal is to increase access to ideas and information and also to encourage new uses of these rich resources. The project emerges from a profound recognition that museums, libraries and other non-formal educational institutions are increasingly vital resources to a learning society and should be at the center of a bold vision for lifelong learning.
In mid November, IMLS convened a Steering Committee of representatives from libraries, museums, public broadcasting, education, funding organizations and foundations and professional service organizations to consider the premises of the 21st Century Learner initiative and to begin planning for a national conference. The group discussed the central thesis that the learning culture requires a new vision in which learning is seen as a community-wide responsibility, supported by both formal and informal educational entities. It recognized an emphasis on alliances and collaboration among community-based educational institutions as the key to building a responsive, accessible learning infrastructure to serve the full citizenry. It further acknowledged the power of technology to support collaboration and connect communities.
Museums and libraries emerged as especially well positioned to serve as resource-rich leaders in addressing the educational challenges of this century. Both offer authenticity and authority. They base learning on real objects and artifacts, authentic and firsthand experiences, and scholarship and authority that is widely regarded as trustworthy. Both have a diverse and broad audience and the ability to work across all ages. They have an impressive history of educational programming, building relationships between various user groups and the ideas inherent in their collections. Both are embedded in their communities and provide congregate spaces for intergenerational learning. They have the expertise and structures in place to provide access to information, and both are adept teachers of learning skills. What is needed now is fresh thinking about alliances among these institutions and others in their communities to support the learning needs of a changing society.
As Museums, Libraries and the 21st Century Learner moves forward, IMLS seeks to widen the conversation and present a national conference in November 2001. A position paper, written by Acting Director Beverly Sheppard, is posted on the IMLS website at <http://www.imls.gov/whatsnew/21cl/21clintro.htm>. The 21st Century Learner link also includes reports from the Steering Committee meeting, information about related initiatives and resources, and an invitation to join the conversation. What models for collaboration about educational entities are underway? How might technology be employed to serve new collaborations? How can we ensure inclusion in a learning society? How else might we widen this conversation? IMLS invites you to weigh in on these very important questions.