MUSEUMS, Libraries, and Public Television: Partners in Public Service

Article excerpt

Contemporary American society is experiencing a rapid change in technology and education. Information technology is continuously refined and improved in ways that were unimaginable even a few years ago.

Formal and informal education is increasingly pursued by all ages through the Internet, television, and public cultural programs. According to Beverly Sheppard (2000), formerly of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we are in the midst of "dazzling new technologies, increasing social diversity and divide, and radical shifts in industry and labor markets" (p. 2). Public educational institutions must not only respond to these changes, they are well-advised to anticipate them.

Museums, libraries, and public television stations, as significant sources of public information, should be especially cognizant of and responsive to societal changes. By their very nature, these three types of nonprofit institutions are well-established educational resources devoted to public service and lifelong learning. With the similar goals of serving a vast audience, providing quality educational opportunities, and engaging learners in new and creative ways, these entities are natural partners in public service. While the partnership possibilities between libraries and museums has been recognized for several years, the same prospects for partnerships with public television are much more recent (Bartholow, 1999). Museums and libraries house enormous reserves of educational information geared towards public audiences, while public television stations are respected and well-equipped media sources for distributing such information.

As public institutions continuously struggle for funding, the sharing of resources, personnel, and ideas becomes more desirable. The unique collaborative potential among libraries, public television, and museums is virtually limitless. These institutions are concerned and involved with their local communities and schools while addressing and responding to issues of national importance. They facilitate experiences that are simultaneously personally meaningful and educational in nature. They actively reach out to a variety of public constituencies and invite them to interact with their collections. Additionally, monies are available to help fund such partnerships (Hundley ' &Targos,2000).

This article describes the process of becoming partners in public service at a large state university. I share this process from beginning to end from my perspective as a museum educator and participant, and encourage other community educators to engage in similar successful and mutually beneficial collaborations.

PIPS at Penn State

Partners in Public Service (PIPS) was initiated by members of The Pennsylvania State University community in summer 2000 as an experiment to determine the possibilities of partnerships among libraries, public television stations, and museums-institutions that traditionally operate independently of one another. A total of eight test sites from organizations around the country were selected to participate in the year-long initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and administered by Penn State. Shared goals of the initiative included learning the culture of peer organizations, serving the public, and providing information for future collaborations by other institutions. The Benton Foundation further supported the PIPS initiative at Penn State by collecting and evaluating materials, and then preparing Digital Alliances: Partnerships in Public Service, Models for Collaboration, a comprehensive report to be shared with a national audience. The planning group at Penn State included Public Broadcasting (WPSX), the College of Communications, the University Libraries, the Palmer Museum of Art, and Penn State's World Campus, in addition to representatives from The Smithsonian Institution Libraries and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. …