Library Innovation: Championing Change in Communities
July 13, 2013
Last week, the White House honored 12 museum and library representatives as Champions of Change in a program that "recognizes individuals, businesses and organizations who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.”
Given its emphasis on creating community and inspiring community members, it seems natural for the White House to focus on museums and libraries, since their mission is to meet the evolving needs of the communities they serve.
Cited were places that "make a difference for their neighborhoods and for our nation...providing powerful learning experiences...reaching young children and their families with early learning opportunities...offering experiences for teens to develop skills...helping immigrants learn English and pursue citizenship...providing opportunities for hard-to-reach populations."
Leslie Bushara, of the Children's Museum of Manhattan, spoke of the role libraries and museums have in supporting families. She has partnered with the National Institute of Health to address children's health issues such as childhood obesity.
Susan Considine, executive director of the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL), described her library's culture of relentless innovation that made it the first library in the country to provide patron access to 3D printing. The FFL's mission is about much more than patron access to cutting-edge technology, however. It's about community members meeting like-minded individuals with similar interests, gathering together, and forming friendships because of the library.
This mission resonates strongly with me. I am a member of the FFL staff, and our group has worked together, collaboratively and across traditional department lines, to engage the community. We establish relationships with community experts who want to share their knowledge and passion with others, and as librarians, facilitate these connections, allowing the community to build community. As FFL leader Sue has explained:
This ability to change and grow to meet emerging needs should be at the heart of every library's mission.
Libraries and museums are more than the sum of their collections because they are reflective of the communities they serve. That is why innovation in libraries matters: without it we begin to lose our relevance and our ability to make a positive impact.
The White House highlighted just a few of our country's extraordinary libraries and museums. What innovations are underway at your favorite library or museum?
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Stephanie C. Prato
is the Director of Play to Learn Services at the Fayetteville Free Library in New York.