Daily Archives: September 7, 2010

Your Library and 21st century skills or “21st Century Skills”

In my Blog post of August 26, I pointed out that “… last fall the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) launched its 21st Century Skills initiatives with a 40 page report titled “Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills” [Citation: Institute of Museum and Library Services (2009). Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills (IMLS-2009- NAI-01). Washington, D.C.], in which the Institute provided this appeal to the library profession.”

The relationship between libraries, museums, and their communities is at a critical intersection. There has never been a greater need for libraries and museums to work with other organizations in effectively serving our communities; there has never been a more rapid period of change affecting museums, libraries, and their communities; and there has never been a more challenging period of economic dislocation facing the people in our communities. As a result, there has never been a better opportunity for libraries and museums to act as leaders for positive change and collaboration. Our libraries and museums can and should seize the opportunity to position our institutions in light of these 21st century challenges.

“The Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills project is designed to help library and museum leaders play a catalytic role in this dialogue, …. It is our hope that the conversations sparked by this report and tool will invigorate meaningful collaborations among cultural institutions and other stakeholders to help every community embrace its 21st century challenges with enthusiasm and confidence.”

I’m thinking that people and organizations are still struggling with an understanding and definition of 21st century skills upon which to establish their Goals, Objectives, Activities, Measures and Outcomes. In that 40 page report, IMLS also provided in broad terms the 21st Century Skills Framework, based on the model from Partnership for 21st Century Skills that will serve as a basic understanding of what are 21st century skills as related to libraries.

21st Century Skills Framework – Adapted for Libraries and Museums

• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
• Creativity and Innovation
• Communication and Collaboration
• Visual Literacy
• Scientific and Numerical Literacy
• Cross-Disciplinary Thinking
• Basic Literacy

• Information Literacy
• Media Literacy
• Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Literacy

• Flexibility and Adaptability
• Initiative and Self-Direction
• Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
• Productivity and Accountability
• Leadership and Responsibility

• Global Awareness
• Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
• Civic Literacy
• Health Literacy
• Environmental Literacy

One of the main issues related to this 21st Century Skills movement is the “education” perspective and emphasis that some librarians in the public sector may feel are not relevant to their situation.

The P21 framework has been adopted by 13 states and numerous organizations and associations, notably including the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The IMLS Project Team and Task Force used the P21 framework as the basis on which to customize this list of skills that are most relevant for libraries and museums.

[Institute of Museum and Library Services (2009). Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills (IMLS-2009- NAI-01). Washington, D.C., Pg. 3.]

Obviously, academia has the impetus and vested interest in providing youth with a 21st Century education that can prepared them for the workforce and a productive, fulfilled life. While IMLS has left the door open for other 21st century education models (“One well-vetted and widely accepted framework that defines “21st century skills” has been offered by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a non-profit coalition sponsored by education, business, and community organizations.” Ibid. Pg. 3.), I think the truth is that there are none – no other comprehensive education models that more effectively describe 21st century skills and elaborate techniques to teach these skills to school youth.

Point being, don’t let the generic 21st century skills required for an effective 21st century workforce get confused with P21’s “21st Century Skills” model. It is all essentially the same, and any good model provides an excellent framework upon which to establish your Goals, Objectives, Activities, Measures and Outcomes. If your local community 21st century skills are different, go with that. The main thing is to get a grasp on YOUR understanding of 21st century skills and how they relate to YOUR library.

So what vested interests do public libraries have in adopting a 21st century skills perspective in library services?

Hopefully, anyone in the library profession should be able to recognize our vested interests in adopting a 21st century skills perspective. It is several fold.

    • It puts us in sync with how our local education institutions’ libraries are providing customer-centered services.
    • It enables us to develop services that will allow our library to remain relevant.
    • It keeps us proactive in adopting technology and applying it effectively for customer services.
    • It defines what the future customer information needs will be.
    • It defines how the future customer behaves.
    (and many more that you can think of……)

“Skills like critical thinking and problem solving are not only relevant for K-12 students and schools. There are millions of adult learners not in formal education programs looking to refine workplace skills. Even school-aged children spend the overwhelming majority of their waking hours in non-school settings, and increasingly they spend this time in organized out-of-school settings such as afterschool, museum, and library programs. In these settings, they develop important skills— such as problem solving, collaboration, global awareness, and self-direction—not only for lifelong learning and everyday activities, but also for use back in K-12 schools and college classrooms.” (Ibid. Pg. 4. Emphasis added.)

The 21st century mindset for librarians must become one of embracing the importance and necessity of 21st century skills, and the library’s place in that vision of the future society. Public libraries are already behind other segments of society, especially school and academic libraries, and must become proactive in incorporating 21st century skills thinking in our 21st Century library services.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized