A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Museums and Libraries Work Hand In Hand

by on February 10, 2017

Museums and libraries have long served as community catalysts. Both institutions promote continuing education and lifelong learning while serving as a “place-based hub for members of the public to engage in informal learning, access collections for educational or aesthetic purposes, and participate in civic dialogue.”[1]

Research has long proven that museums and libraries are necessary assets to communities. Though there are some differences between both institutions, “museums and libraries of all shapes and sizes share a number of features that make them well-situated as catalysts for positive change: they are embedded in local communities, they have a public service orientation, and they are viewed as community assets.”[2]

Despite what research says about these institutions being necessary assets, I am concerned for the future of libraries and museums. It appears 2017 is getting off to a rough start for libraries and museums in regards to funding. As you may know, museums and libraries rely on funding from federal grants, donors, taxes, and fundraising. If funds are cut then both institutions struggle to maintain their collections, promote events and programs, and pay staff, which can lead to closures.

Libraries and museums can revitalize struggling communities, act as a commons or safe haven for community members, and also as a resource for individuals of all backgrounds and ethnicities. One of the most devastating things that can happen to a community is for its local library or museum to permanently close.

As EveryLibrary notes, “We are disheartened to report at least two public library closures and a continued decline of school library funding and support. We are also concerned about an empowered Republican Study Committee who has proposed Federal Budgets with an agenda that includes defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services which provides millions of dollars in grant funding to libraries.”[3]

The situation is dire and now is the time library and museum workers must come together to fight the good fight and prove that libraries and museums are needed now more than ever. Both institutions are unique in that they teach communities about the past and present, they provide resources for struggling families, refugees, and the LGBTQ community, and they preserve history. How can we know who we are as a nation if we do not know where we have been and how far we have come?

I have worked closely with museums for many years. My library has collaborated with local museums to promote events and programs that serve our community in educational and entertainment capacities. There is no more rewarding experience than knowing that your work is bettering the lives of an entire community and nation. That is the reason I obtained an MLS and the reason my own wife earned her masters in museum studies; because we know our professions genuinely make a difference. It is important to note that museums and libraries are “forging new ground in the services they provide to their patrons— services to help individuals develop new skills, improve physical or mental health, connect with others in new ways, exercise their political voice, and participate in making their communities better places to live.”[4] The proof and research are overwhelming. Museums and libraries, although having some differences, are unique and similar in many ways. Their contribution to making communities better places to live is undeniable.


[1] Emily Dowdall and Michael H. Norton, Ph.D., “Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change: Museums and Libraries As Community Catalysts,” p.3. https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/publications/documents/community-catalyst-report-january-2017.pdf, accessed January 28, 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Library Closures and Defunding Concerns in 2017.” http://everylibrary.org/library-closures-defunding-2017/, accessed February 2, 2017.

[4] Dowdall and Norton. P. 55.

Tags: , , ,