|Public Leadership Role Models|
I was privileged last month to attend the awarding of the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to 10 remarkable institutions, including a science center, children's museum, music museum, art museum, cultural museum, public libraries and county library systems in seven different states. Each award was given to a leader of the institution and to a person who had benefited from that institution's programs. The stories illustrating these program benefits were tremendously moving and inspiring. Several had to do with English language programs in libraries. A young woman came to Cincinnati from Ethiopia reading neither English nor her native tongue. As a result of a YWCA tutoring program based in her library, she can now read stories in English to her children. Another girl came to Marshalltown, Iowa, speaking only Spanish. She credits the fact that she will be the first in her family to graduate from college to that library's bilingual program.
Other stories had to do with young people falling in love with learning through museum programs. A 14 year old recruited for employment in the Boston Children's Museum teen ambassador program improved his grade point average from 0.7 to 3.5 in two years, and is now applying to college. A young man who began learning to play guitar at the Delta Blues Museum when he was eight is now in college completing his degree in music industry studies. It seems to me that many of these programs are making up for learning opportunities that should be available through public schools, but it is clear that these museums and libraries are providing critically needed services—not only for college and career, but for citizenship, community participation and family responsibilities as well. You can watch the awards ceremony and hear a short summary of each honored program, and you can read the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service brochure, which documents each winning program in detail.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which selects the awardees in consultation with the National Museum and Library Services Board, is an exemplary federal agency. Its grant categories are purposeful and it invests significantly in creating and promulgating knowledge from its activities. The National Medal brochure, for instance, could be used as a text for teaching educational and cultural leaders how to provide outstanding service to individuals, families and communities. Each program summary lists an impressive range of community partners that improve the institution's depth of content, reach, impact and resources. It provides a concise statement of purpose, a profile of the scale and scope of the organization, a narrative summary of how the organization and its programs address the unique needs of its community, and measurable indicators of success.
In fact, one reason I chose to write about these awards is to make the suggestion that state arts agency leaders actually use this IMLS brochure and others like it as texts, and integrate their use in statewide leadership development activities. Questions in the nomination form (on page 4) for the IMLS medals would make an excellent curriculum for interactive discussion:
- Quantify and describe the population groups/communities your institution is reaching through its community services. What community needs do you address through your programs, services and partnerships? How did you identify these needs?
- Provide examples of the programs and services you have developed for these population groups/communities. How does your institution involve your community in developing your programs? How have these partnerships increased your ability to reach out to the targeted population groups and communities you serve?
- How do your programs reflect your institution's mission and strategic plan?
- Describe what impact your institution's programs and services have had on the identified community needs. What have you learned about meeting the needs of your audiences? How have you used this information to plan future programs and services?
- List the three primary sources of revenue that will sustain your institution in the future. Describe any private or nonprofit groups that support the mission and activities of your institution.
Artists, educators and leaders of arts organizations, museums, libraries and other community institutions have much to learn from each other. I learned recently that the International Town-Gown Association (ITGA) has given its inaugural award—honoring the town-gown relationship that best represents the spirit of the association—to the City of Kent, Ohio, and Kent State University. The downtown Kent redevelopment project includes a hotel and conference center; a multimodal transit center; development of several retail offices, pedestrian-oriented shopping and corporate office areas; and extension of an esplanade designed to strengthen ties between the university and the city. Along that esplanade will be the new Wick Poetry Center and its poetry park, which will allow people to interact with interchangeable poetry posters via their smartphone or tablet. During the next four years, Kent State will be transforming its campus with new buildings and revitalized spaces. The ITGA award also recognizes the ongoing communication between city and university officials that has been designed to facilitate more collaboration. This award is meaningful to me because I remember that town-gown friction in Kent was a factor leading to the killings of students by the National Guard when I was a graduate student there many years ago. I mention it here because I think people associated with cultural districts and arts groups who want to strengthen their community relationships would have a mutually beneficial exchange with ITGA people working on town-gown synergies.
Similarly, I note that the National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Center has just named the three 2013 recipients of its Great American Main Street Awards: H Street here in Washington, D.C.; Ocean Springs, Mississippi; and Rochester, Michigan. The Main Street Four Point Approach—organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring—often leads to the integration of artistic, cultural, historic and architectural assets in community planning, as it has in the case of each of these award winners. I know that many state arts agencies have good working relationships with their Main Street associates.
I would be very interested in hearing which colleagues NASAA members are finding most helpful in providing leadership development to their state's cultural community, and would be interested also in participating in these activities. Here in the NASAA office, we are happily planning with our hosts, the Wyoming Arts Council / Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, for the NASAA 2013 Leadership Institute, October 16-18 in Jackson. Please join us with your agency's leaders.