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Integrating Libraries and Museums in State-Level Early Learning Strategies

August 19, 2014

By Susan H. Hildreth Director, IMLS More than 400 museum, library and early childhood experts registered to attend a webinar on “Expanding the Reach of Early Learning and Development Systems for Libraries and Museums.” This was another important milestone in our work to encourage greater and more intentional collaboration among these groups. It was part of our partnership work with the BUILD Initiative. The BUILD Initiative was launched in May 2002 by a consortium of private foundations. Its aim is to stimulate public investments in early learning and help coordinate programs, policies, and services for young children that often operate in insolation and without enough resources to meet critical needs. Museum and library leaders share the desire of early childhood leaders to create high quality learning opportunities for young children. Many state-level efforts to support young children's growth and development focus narrowly on formal institutions, such as preschools and public health systems. But children live in families, and their lives are really shaped by family and community. Museums and libraries serve families and are valuable community assets. For the past few years, the Institute of Museum and Library Services worked intensively with partners at the federal and national level and through grants to local institutions for early education. With the BUILD Initiative, we will examine how to better integrate libraries and museums into state systems. Our project will start with five pilot states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington. In each state, BUILD will help form a team that includes early learning leaders with a deep understanding of state program standards (QRIS), early learning standards (birth to 5), and the ways that early childhood plans, policies and programs operate, as well as representatives from state library agencies, public libraries, and museums. Teams may also include local community leaders with expertise in important early childhood issues such as literacy or obesity. While some states have included museums and libraries at the heart of their early childhood systems work, most have not. While many museums and libraries have engaged in exemplary early learning activities, most have not aligned with state systems-building efforts. Our collaboration with BUILD over the coming year will create connections between museums and libraries and early childhood systems builders to better support young children. I hope you will follow this effort and let us know how your library or museum is engaging at the state level to improve the quality of early learning experiences for children and their families.