A new initiative of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) will help libraries and museums develop a deeper understanding of their role as instruments of community stability and enablers of positive community change. Through the Community Catalyst Initiative, IMLS will gather input from the library, museum, and community revitalization fields to develop frameworks, tools, and resources to support staff skill-building needed to help transform the connections libraries and museums have with their communities.

The project cooperator is Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution that uses data, policy, and strategic investments to improve the quality of low-income neighborhoods. The cooperator will receive assistance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP). IMLS is also pleased to partner with the William Penn Foundation in this effort.

A Community Catalysts Town Hall is scheduled for September 8-9 in Philadelphia, to draw on expert knowledge of key stakeholders and other participants about promising approaches for meaningful and lasting community change by the museum and library sector. The meeting will be informed by research the project team is conducting this summer, including a literature review and an environmental scan of library and museum community partnerships. During the Town Hall, there will be an opportunity for public engagement.The information gathered may lead to a prospective piloting phase of the project, with a focus on the development of frameworks, tools, methodologies, and a community of practice to help libraries and museums proactively and sustainably partner with their communities.

IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew said, “Libraries and museums impact thousands of their community members daily, providing resources and services that contribute significantly to quality of life, education, economy, and community cohesion. I am delighted to announce our Community Catalyst Initiative, which was conceived on the premise that museums and libraries that are integrally linked to their community ecosystems can respond powerfully and purposefully to their community needs and visions.”

The Philadelphia Town Hall is part of ongoing discussions with museums, libraries, and their communities that IMLS will host around the Community Catalyst Initiative over the next year.

Institutions with questions about the Community Catalyst Initiative and the upcoming town hall should contact Dr. Marvin Carr at mcarr@imls.gov or 202-653-4752.