21st-century vision statement for US libraries, museums: Study

By Anne Collier

If the US’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums adopt the 21st-century skills promoted in this report from the Institute for Museums and Libraries, they’ll increasingly be pickup up where schools are leaving off – schools not adopting the 21st-century learning tools that engage young 21st-century media users! The IMLS report says “every individual requires these competencies to succeed in 21st-century life and work”: “information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.” To illustrate why those competencies are needed, the report shows the stark contrast between 21st-century conditions and 20th-century ones in six areas: Number of Jobs Held in a Lifetime (10-15 now vs. 1-2 in the 20th century); What a Job Requires (“simultaneous mastery of many rapidly changing fields” now vs. “mastery of 1 field” in the 20th c.); job competition (“global” now vs. “local” then); work model (“non-routine, technical, creative, interactive” now vs. “routine, hands-on, fact-based” then); education model (“learner-centered – self-directed, with life-long learning as primary goal” now vs. “institution-centered – formal degree attainment as primary goal” then); organizational Culture (multi-directional – top-down, bottom-up, side-to-side, etc.” now vs. “top-down” then). [See the at-a-glance chart at the bottom of p. 2.] The report includes case studies of libraries and museums who are getting it right, and an assessment tool for other such institutions to see how they’re doing. It concludes that key to libraries’ and museums’ success is to be knitted tightly into and work closely with their communities – helping “individuals and communities improve workforce preparation, civic engagement, and cross-cultural understanding.”

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