[Justine Roberts Guest Posting]
So what’s in it for a children’s museum? Why would a children’s museum want to be part of a library? I worked my way to an answer by looking at where libraries and children’s museums are different:
- Children’s museums have high activity levels and tolerate noise and mess. They often have technology, loose parts, and require skilled maintenance. Libraries are quiet. They have many cues telling parents that noise and physical activity only belongs in children’s rooms. This points to underlying differences in culture, training, and experience.
- They have different patterns of use and operating hours. Librariyy circulation picks up in the evening. They are closed on holidays, during school vacations, and often on Sundays. Children’s Museums are at their peak during holidays, vacations and on weekends and are usually closed by 5pm.
- Libraries don’t often have development or marketing departments. Instead, they typically have an MOU with the City that covers space, utilities, technical support, maintenance, and buildings and grounds. Museums might wish for a city safety net, but it’s a trade-off with their diversified funding model and experience raising capital and operating money.
Together, a library and a children’s museum functioning as a single organization might be open from 9am-9pm, and offer different services at different times of day. They might combine City funding with grant-writing and annual campaigns and even have an endowment. They could be designed to provide activities for families while maintaining areas for quiet, focused, learning for adults.
Bottom line is a blended model might be more flexible, serve a broader audience, and lead to a more robust funding model than would be possible as a stand-alone organization.