Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change: Museums and Libraries as Community Catalysts

The report includes case studies and a discussion of conceptual frameworks that can guide libraries, archives, and museums that seek to spark catalytic change in their communities.

Together with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Reinvestment Fund and the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project surveyed the range of ways museums and libraries of all types strive to address community challenges, on their own or through strategic partnerships, and even spark change. The effort began with the creation of a “conversation-starter” document based on the review of a wide array of literature (academic articles, IMLS grantee reports,
and published external evaluations of library and museum initiatives), site visits to four museums and libraries actively engaged with their communities, and phone interviews with museum and library staff from across the country. In addition, Reinvestment Fund’s Policy Advisory Board, along with a panel of subject matter experts from relevant fields such as philanthropy, higher education, and nonprofit management, also provided substantive feedback on multiple drafts of the document. The examples and insights compiled were presented in draft form at a town hall gathering of more than 60 leaders from museums, libraries, universities, foundations, government agencies, and related community service sectors. Feedback from town hall participants was reviewed and synthesized by the research team in this report.

Norton, M. H., & Dowdall, E. (2017). Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change: Museums and Libraries as Community Catalysts. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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