Do partnerships help produce a better desired outcome? Can public libraries gain from integrating with museums and members of the museology field?
There are factors for both advocating and resisting long lasting partnerships or integrations between these two organizations.
However, the core of both fields represents significant pillars in society’s public programming, engagement and education.
In this post the integration of museums and libraries will be discussed.
Public libraries are known to continuously evolve and adapt with advancements in technology and society. Not only do public libraries evolve but they tend to be the platform to educate the public about the information they have adopted. Think new technologies, media, and knowledge. Public libraries are safe spaces which allow members of the community exposure to new technology which helps them develop skills such as 3-D printing, laser cutting, music editing etc. which is not readily accessible to the public in the same way.
Museums also impact the community and the visitors they serve. As stated in “The role of the Museum in Society” by Emmanuel N. Arinze, museums traditionally collect materials and objects of cultural, religious, historical importance to preserve, research and present them for display to the public for educational purposes as well as enjoyment.
So, could it be the natural next step to consider the possibility of public libraries integrating with museums or exhibitions in the future? If so, this integration could present a complementary holistic service where the strengths of both platforms are fused together to provide a synergy of resources for the visitors and surrounding community.
Having a successful and lasting partnership between libraries and museums could be achieved in multiple ways. For this post, there are three specific scenarios to highlight.
Libraries have small, long term exhibits:
In this scenario libraries could work together with a local museum to hold a specific exhibit for an agreed upon amount of time. This would provide continuity of the museum’s exhibit in a new, more accessible location, and allow for exposure to a different audience within the community. This would also allow the library to highlight their resources within the exhibit created for the visitors. This would also allow visitors access to one of the greatest resources available – librarians.
Librarians are instrumental in helping find answers to the questions sought out by curious minds. Their work is not only vital, but extremely valuable. This fact would be highlighted by the types of questions inspired by a museum exhibit designed to make visitors think.
Museums have permanent public library stations:
Having a dedicated public library space within the museum in which visitors gain access to resources commonly offered by the library, would emphasise the museum’s exhibit experience for the visitors. This could include books from the library’s collection, data from the library’s databases or any number of the resources libraries have to offer.
This would differ from the book store commonly found in museums. Though books for purchase are still an important aspect of the visitor experience, having an extension of a public library within an exhibit could increase awareness of the many benefits and resources public libraries offer. This kind of integration could potentially strengthen the relationship of the community with the public library. This library extension would be another outlet to reach more visitors, similar to how mobile libraries work. It would provide another access point for the community to use and benefit from the library without having to be at the physical location of the public library.
Large scale library & museum hybrid:
A large scale integration between public libraries and museums as a future hybrid entity makes for a very interesting topic of conversation. Imagine a public library, like the new and beautiful Oodi library in Helsinki, Finland, and a music museum like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio coming together to form a public domain of information, resources, and learning.
For a vivid mental picture let’s explore this integration a bit further. In this hypothetical example visitors would be able to learn the history of music in an interactive and informative museum exhibit which educates visitors about the artists and groups who paved the way to today’s industry leaders.
Upon completion of the museum, exhibit visitors could take the information and knowledge acquired through the exhibit hall and transition into the designated library space. The natural flow from exhibit to library could allow visitors to simply “dive in” using their newly acquired information to leverage the correct library resources to find answers to the questions raised. This would allow visitors access to further research bands and artists to understand their journey, read up on any relevant literature, listen to their catalogue of music and even create their own music in a library maker space.
Though some partnerships between libraries and museums currently do exist, the integration discussed here entails a FULL extension including all resources and services of the other entity to be incorporated within the other’s premises. This is not for a competitive purpose, but to complement and add to the overall experience.
Active cooperation between large community pillars, like libraries and museums, could provide a modern, grandiose structure incorporating history, culture and resources to continuously enrich their communities.
Similarities and barriers
Though the methods of libraries, museums and archives all differ, there is common ground that makes integration or lasting partnerships intriguing. One common goal is providing easy access to information and this only tends to differ in the method used to present and collect this information. Generally, museums are dedicated to preserving and displaying collections. The exhibits facilitate both study and enjoyment of the collection.
Whereas libraries tend to be a collection of creative and informational sources, resources and materials that are selected, maintained and organized for study, research or leisure. Library services are generally offered to encourage access to these resources and meet the community’s needs, with the information and services within.
Moreover, a collaboration between these entities would allow the opportunity for real-time data sharing, through shared databases, which could also support planning for future collections, development and a heightened patron/visitor experience.
The idea of this collaboration seems optimistic and idealistic without mentioning the barriers that would arise in such a collaboration. Much due diligence would be required and discussed before a lasting, and fair collaboration could successfully move forward.
Some specific barriers to address before this idea of integration or long-lasting partnerships could work, include; funding, budgeting, allocation of money, staffing, hours of operations, and core operations. Which certainly calls for a major organizational project and community discussions. However, change and improvement tend to start with an idea and a conversation.
Ideas start with discussion and can be built up from there. Of course, not all the benefits nor all the negatives were touched upon, but the idea of pushing these boundaries further and creating the best possible library is an important endeavour—even if the idea never develops past the conversation stage.
Sparking a conversation to encourage library professionals to continue the discussion and find new ways to create valuable resources for their communities and visitors, is, and should always be, a priority.
The many differing opinions and thoughts involving integrating other organizations with the library are all valid and important to the conversation. These discussions lead to continued library innovation and development. If integrating with another organization, such as museums, can maintain the mission of the public library, while adding value through increased educational and informational services in the community; then the partnership has the potential to be openly embraced by all parties.
Links between Libraries and Museums: a Case Study of Library-Museum Collaboration at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. By Patrick Lo, Kitty But, Robert Trio
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!
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