Building Successful Library-Museum Partnerships

Partnerships are key to effective programming. They help libraries expand their offerings and reach new audiences. Most importantly, they create new pathways to learning and help strengthen existing systems of social support within the community.

How can libraries and children's museums work together to advance shared goals?

As they look for new ways to serve their communities, libraries are expanding the frequency and range of their partnerships. So are children’s museums. Given their shared commitments to informal learning and community engagement, the two institutions are naturally suited to collaboration. But what makes for effective library-museum partnerships, and what kinds of programs can these partnerships lead to?

In a new report, Knology researchers offer insights into how libraries and children’s museums can productively join forces in support of shared goals. Based on an analysis of data from two IMLS-funded field-wide surveys — one administered with the American Library Association and a second carried out with the Association of Children’s Museums (both longtime Knology partners) — the report lays out a recipe for partnership success backed by quantitative and qualitative evidence. It includes real-world examples of successful library-museum partnerships and calls attention to a number of promising areas for future collaboration between these two community pillars.

Key Takeaways

  • Libraries and children’s museums are already working together, and many partnerships have been going on “for too long to remember.”
  • Areas ripe for library-children’s museum partnerships include efforts related to healing, learning and community.
  • Children’s museums often look to libraries for help with “reaching new audiences” and “enhancing formal/informal education.”

Interested in learning how partnerships help libraries and children’s museums share their skills and expertise in ways that better meet community needs? The report is available for free as part of the ACM Trends series. And for more insights into the role that collaboration plays across the children’s museum sector, check out another report we issued as part of this series.

About this Article

This article is based on materials derived from two projects: (1) the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA); (2) the ACM Trends series. Both projects are funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the authors are solely responsible for the content on this page. To learn more about the survey research that served as the basis for this article, see the series of blog posts on library programming partnerships we wrote as part of our NILPPA research.

Knology is a nonprofit research organization that produces practical social science for a better world. Founded in 2012, our transdisciplinary team consists of over 20 social scientists, writers, and educators who draw on their varied areas of expertise to untangle complex social issues. Our research seeks to improve human relationships with the environment, help cultural institutions become agents of social change, and create more effective media. We study these topics by working collaboratively with organizations who seek to advance social good and immediately turn knowledge into action.