Amid the explosion of information technology and the twin challenges of social change and financial constraint, archives, libraries and museums (LAMs) have the opportunity to strengthen their presence and enhance their contributions. Collaboration among archives, libraries and museums is crucial to success, and a critical component of this collaboration is the strengthening and sustaining of continuing education and professional development (CE/PD) for their workforces.
The Idea is Born: CE Summit – June 2013
In June 2013, IMLS and OCLC hosted a Continuing Education Summit [opens as PDF] with the aim of jump-starting the conversation about collaboration and exploring coordinated, near-term plans for innovative projects and partnerships. The Summit generated a shared understanding of how organizations could work together to improve and sustain continuing education/professional development in the LAM fields. Further, participants came away from the event with a clear sense that, in addition to strengthening the fields as a whole, this work would help them more effectively meet their own organizations’ goals.
Formation of the Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries and Museums
The CE Summit resulted in an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant awarded to OCLC to organize the formation of a national Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries and Museums. “The Coalition” was formed by representatives from organizations committed to CE/PD for the LAM profession, as well as key individuals making significant contributions in local environments. These organizations became the Coalition’s founding participants, and agreed to meet in person and virtually to formulate a joint strategy and pilot initiatives that have the potential to engage more organizations in moving forward that strategy.
First In-Person Convening – March 2014
With impetus and funding from IMLS, supplemental funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the program management of OCLC, the Coalition launched at an in-person meeting held in Washington, D.C., in March 2014. During this first meeting, participants identified key challenges to address and initiated efforts to develop approaches for future cross-sector collaboration on CE/PD. One of the first actions of the Coalition was to affirm a shared vision that was derived from the conclusions drawn at the 2013 CE Summit:
The Vision of the Coalition is: to work in deliberate coordination across organizational boundaries to devise and strengthen sustainable continuing education and professional development programs that will transform the library, museum and archives workforce in ways that lead to measureable impact on our nation’s communities.
Building Trust – April-September 2014
As the founding participants of the Coalition dove into action to move the vision forward, it became clear that a solid foundation for collaboration required building a community of trust and rapport. It was imperative that all participants grasp the commonalities and differences among the archives, libraries and museums sectors, and to understand how to connect business objectives and priorities of individual organizations to the overall vision of the Coalition. To build and strengthen the Coalition as a cohesive and productive entity, the founding participants devised an official name for the Coalition, mutually agreed on operating principles, prepared public-facing communication channels and delivered presentations at major sector conferences.
To get clarity about the current state of CE/PD across organizations and sectors, a group of Coalition participants developed a proposal to “map the landscape,” and applied for and won grant funding to make it happen. To test the hypothesis that cross-sector staff training is feasible and effective, another set of participants devised a prototype learning opportunity to be delivered on a topic of shared interest across the three fields. This resulted in the Project Management 101 webinars delivered in February 2015.
Moving Forward: Second In-Person Convening – October 2014
The second in-person Convening was a great opportunity to take advantage of the immediacy of refreshing relationships and brainstorming possibilities. The Coalition participants began to dig seriously into the iterative process of discussion, review and collaborative editing toward defining a Joint Strategy, a framework that would provide direction for the efficient management of CE/PD investments across the sectors and build coordination and cooperation among organizations to sustain effective CE/PD for archives, library and museum staff.
Expanding the Coalition – October to December 2014
To engage more representatives from the archives and museum sectors, the Coalition identified and invited the following organizations to join the foundational activities of Coalition: Council of State Archivists (CoSA), Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC), American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and Virginia Association of Museums (VAM). The participation of these organizations was supported through supplemental funding contributed by IMLS and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In spite of the preference for in-person meetings, participants managed to accomplish a remarkable amount of work through the virtual channels of BaseCamp, web conferences and virtual convenings.
Prototype: Project Management 101 Webinars – February 2015
Coalition participants planned and developed two Project Management 101 webinars intended to reach a broad cross-sector audience on a topic of shared interest. Over 1,400 people registered to attend the webinars, with solid representation across the three sectors. Data gathered in pre- and post-surveys indicated an increase in positive attitudes toward cross-sector learning. The success of the series affirmed that some topics not only appeal to a multi-sector audience, but benefit from perspectives and experiences of participants across the archives, libraries and museums fields.
Mapping the Landscapes Grant Award – March 2015
With a new IMLS grant to conduct a CE/PD needs assessment, a cross-sector project team of 38 partner organizations – Mapping the Landscapes (“Mapping”) – was born. Evaluation consultants, who were engaged to build the survey instruments, developed a conceptual model for charting the gaps in competencies and institutional characteristics to be measured. The project team has since produced two major publications. Spanning Our Field Boundaries: Mindfully Managing LAM Collaborations (October 2015) aims to “shed light on some of the issues that currently hinder our boundary-spanning potential, so that together we can mindfully observe and manage these issues as we develop collaborations among our archives, libraries and museums”. The second publication, LAM Education Needs Assessments: Bridging the Gaps (November 2015), introduces guiding principles and practices for CE/PD needs assessments informed by spheres of reference outside LAMs.
Increasing Collaborative Work and New Projects:
Third Convening – March 2015
The third in-person convening focused on increasing ongoing collaborative work and cultivating new actionable projects. Participants explored organizational strengths and interests, identified intersections for collaboration and produced an expansive list of ideas for potential collaboration. Project teams formed around the following priority ideas: refreshing the Coalition website; conducting further testing of collaborative CE/PD approaches; developing a pilot-exchange program to encourage conference attendance by representatives from other fields; exploring the idea of a cross-sector residency program; and continuing to investigate options for a supply analysis in parallel with the Mapping grant activities.
Joint Strategy Executive Summary – April 2015
As a result of strong agreements reached during the March 2015 Convening, Coalition participants posted a four-page summary of a joint strategy on the Coalition website. This document is intended to be a simple framework describing the Coalition’s purpose and areas of focus to an outside audience.
Supplemental Grant Award: The Collaboration Continues
OCLC received from IMLS a supplemental grant to extend the work of the Coalition, allowing the opportunity to put the joint strategy into action. Acting on the four goals, the Coalition intends to design and deliver strategic messaging to learning providers, decision makers and learners across the field; pursue pilot initiatives and grant proposals that are built on the principles of cross-sector collaboration, increased cost efficiency and improved learning experiences for knowledge workers; expand the community of cross-sector collaborative CE/PD practice; and explore ways to extend and ensure sustainability of Coalition work beyond the life of the current grant.