I have heard of libraries and children’s museums partnering on programs, sharing a building, and creating joint staff to manage overlapping operations. And some libraries are integrating hands-on exhibits with books. But a library starting a children’s museum is different. This is what we were asked to figure out for the Rancho Cucamonga, CA Library.
I had a lot of questions. What does a blended model look like? How is it different from a children’s museum? What synergies might an expanded set of services offer? How do you organize the space and functions of a library and an interactive museum when both services are run by a single entity?
In addition, there are organizational cultures and traditions to consider, and a significant difference in funding models.
The value of a children’s museum to a library was immediately clear. For libraries, staying relevant is a critical issue. Many are reinventing themselves as community centers, hoping to be the hub of a learning community and a “third place”. And many are focusing on early childhood, recognizing that families need supportive, enjoyable, social learning experiences.
As CA State Library Consultant Suzanne Flint said to me “Libraries are about wonder.” A children’s museum adds a dimension to this of trying, doing and figuring out. A children’s museum and library working as one entity can both ignite and sustain a passion for learning over a lifetime.