ACM Trends #6.4 Collaborating with Libraries: What Children’s Museums Need to Know


Data for this report comes from two surveys. That pertaining to children’s museums’ collaborations with libraries was collected through the Spring 2023 ACM Member Collaborations survey. The dataset contains information from 59 member institutions. Data on library collaborations with museums was collected through a NILPPA survey of US libraries conducted in 2022. This dataset contains information from 314 libraries. Research for both of these projects is supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (Grant #s: MG-251839-
OMS-22; MG-80-19-0042-19; LG-250153-OLS-21).

Libraries and museums have a shared mission as sites of informal learning.

Both museums and libraries are in the process of expanding the ways they serve their communities, going beyond informal learning to become sites for convening, health and wellness, and other community needs. As their roles change, there are new opportunities for museum-library partnerships. To help children’s museums leverage their existing library partnerships (or form new ones) in support of newly emerging goals, this Trends Report offers a library centered perspective on what makes partnerships effective. What are libraries looking for in a prospective community partner? What do they value in their collaborative relationships? And what are new ways children’s museums can work with libraries to support broader community goals?

The survey also offered insights into the goals children’s museums are pursuing through collaboration. Though varying considerably, museums’ collaborative goals are connected to three broadly shared aims: (1) healing; (2) learning; (3) community. In what follows, we discuss how these findings can help children’s museums understand, approach, and evaluate collaborative work. Our hope is that sharing this information will not only stimulate dialogue around collaboration and partnership, but also help children’s museum leaders plan new collaborative programs and begin the process of building relationships with new partners.

To address these questions, we explore findings from two recent IMLS-funded field-wide surveys: (1) the Spring 2023 ACM Member Collaborations Survey (whose results we discussed in ACM Trends Report 6.3); (2) a 2022 survey conducted by Knology and the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office (ALA PPO) as part of an IMLS-funded project called “National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment” (NILPPA.org). Both surveys included questions about collaborative programming, and their results offer insights into how libraries and children’s museums can expand and strengthen their partnerships in support of shared institutional and community goals.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.4 report >

ACM Trends #6.3 Understanding Museums’ Collaboration Goals

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Data for this report was collected through a Spring 2023 ACM member survey on collaborations. The dataset contains information from 59 member institutions. Previous pandemic-era survey data on collaborations conducted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic supported instrument sevelopment. This research was supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services

Children’s museums are part of an ecosystem of community services designed to enrich children’s lives through the provision of informal learning experiences. That ecosystem functions best when the various institutions comprising it are working together, sharing their resources and capabilities to more effectively connect with and serve their audiences.

We saw evidence of this during the height of the pandemic. As reported in Trends Report #4.8, #4.10, and #4.11, children’s museums adapted to the constraints imposed by COVID-19 by forging partnerships with new collaborators and expanding existing collaborations. The public health crisis inspired children’s museums to join forces with an incredibly diverse array of community organizations, including formal educational institutions and health and social service providers. These collaborations led not only to new
programs, but also to broader conceptions of community service and fresh insights into how children’s museums can deliver on their mission.

This edition of the ACM Trends series provides an update on our pandemic-era research. As of Spring 2023, 95% of children’s museums have re-opened their doors, and to understand how this transition is impacting their collaborative work, we administered a survey focused explicitly on this topic. Fifty-nine ACM members completed this survey. Their responses indicate that the resumption of in-person activities has not diminished children’s museums’ eagerness for collaborating with partners across a wide range of service vectors. Moreover, just as was true at COVID-19’s peak, programs focused on health and wellbeing remain a core part of their collaborative efforts.

The survey also offered insights into the goals children’s museums are pursuing through collaboration. Though varying considerably, museums’ collaborative goals are connected to three broadly shared aims: (1) healing; (2) learning; (3) community. In what follows, we discuss how these findings can help children’s museums understand, approach, and evaluate collaborative work. Our hope is that sharing this information will not only stimulate dialogue around collaboration and partnership, but also help children’s museum leaders plan new collaborative programs and begin the process of building relationships with new partners.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.3 report >

ACM Information Brief on the Power of Play

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Play is a powerful experience that enriches people’s lives in museums, schools, homes, and beyond. In this latest ACM Informational Brief, The power of play in children’s museums and elsewhere, play is explained through the research-based benefits of play to children’s discovery, health and wellness, and agency, as well as through the crucial role children’s museums play in cultivating and providing access to play.

Although the benefits of play can occur in many different types of environments, children’s museums offer particularly valuable contexts for play.

Play is vital for children, young people, and adults as well. Children’s museums have vast experience in creating playful learning experiences that are age-appropriate, hands on, interactive, and joyful. Even beyond their walls, museums form partnerships and build capacity to encourage more playful learning experiences in schools, homes, parks, hospitals, airports, malls, and beyond. Children’s museums provide examples of the many ways parents, caregivers, and educators can use play to facilitate wellbeing, healthy brain development, and to make learning more effective and joyful for everyone. As children’s museums, we believe in the power of play and we strive to nurture more play and playful learning everywhere we go.

 


Paper commissioned by ACM | Written by KT Todd, Director of Learning and Research, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

ACM and ASTC Jointly Publish 2023 Workforce Survey Report

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For more information, the 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report can be retrieved via ACM or ASTC. A digital download of the report is available for purchase ($199 ACM or ASTC member/$499 non-member).

ACM members and nonmembers may download the association’s publications order form and send it to membership@acm.org.

ASTC members may purchase their report via myASTC.astc.org

The Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) are pleased to announce the release of the 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report. This report presents findings from 138 participating institutions, 36% of which are active ACM member museums, and 81% of which are active ASTC member museums. ACM and ASTC worked together on previous efforts to capture this data and share with the community, most recently in 2016. 

The purpose of this joint data collection effort is to provide museum professionals and leadership with an understanding of important staffing trends in the museum world, as well as analysis that can help institutions understand how their own policies relate to institutions of similar size or type.

Key Findings

•   Full-time staff numbers are rebounding to their pre-pandemic levels, but part-time positions remain down by almost 15%, and volunteer numbers are lower as well.

•   65% of institutions report that they are currently hiring floor/frontline staff, far above the percentage that reported currently hiring for any other positions.

•   Full-time staff salaries are up by 15% since 2019 and approximately 6% in the past year.

•   Part-time hourly wages increased 23% since 2019 and approximately 7% in the past year.

•   Benefits that institutions offer staff have not changed dramatically since the 2016 workforce survey. Currently, more than 80% of institutions report contributing to employee health insurance.

•   Questions on remote work arrangements show that the majority of museum work is still being done primarily in-person. At the same time, many respondents said the demand for remote work flexibility is a major challenge in recruiting new staff.

•   11% of institutions reported have some unionized staff, but unionization is typically limited to only certain roles or departments.

•   Demographic information on staff is quite limited, raising questions for how institutions can measure their progress toward diversifying the field.

The 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report paints a picture of a field that is moving forward from the pandemic, but not without challenges. Compensation is rising and staff numbers are rebounding, but these trends are not consistent across all types of staff. Museums are looking for ways to attract and retain staff in a time when many workers are navigating career transitions, but they are also encountering obstacles as workers sometimes find more competitive pay, benefits, or work policies in other fields.

The full 2023 ACM-ASTC Workforce Survey Report provides a closer look at these numbers and issues, with breakouts by institution type, size, and location to help organizations understand where their own policies and practices lie in comparison to the larger field. A robust executive summary is available open access for free.

Let us walk you through it

Monday, July 17, 2023, 3:00 PM ET 

Please join ACM and ASTC for a free webinar—open to all—to learn more about the survey instrument and our findings. Attendees will hear from ACM’s Jennifer Rehkamp, Director of Field Services and Research, and ASTC’s Melissa Ballard, Director of Programs. 

Register via Zoom

ACM Trends #6.2 The ACM Data Hub: Understanding National Averages

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Data for this report was drawn from publicly available IRS Form 990s posted on Candid and the ProPublica nonprofit look-up tools. Supplemental data was collected through the Spring 2022 ACM member survey.

Since 2019, ACM and Knology have been working to create a data-based resource geared toward helping children’s museums learn about emerging trends across the field. The result of our efforts is the ACM Trends Data Hub—an online portal that visualizes trends in museum attendance, income, expenses, and staffing from 2016 to the present. Created with data from ACM member surveys and the publicly available US tax Form 990s that all US non-profits are required to complete every year, the Data Hub displays individual museum information that can be filtered by size, ACM member level, US region, and by city and state. As a management tool, the Data Hub allows children’s museums to monitor their performance across the aforementioned indicators, and to compare this to other institutions and sector-wide trends. Though at present the Data Hub only features US-based museums, the ACM Trends team will aim to incorporate data from museums outside the US in the future.

To facilitate the Data Hub’s use, this ACM Trends Report highlights one of its most important features: the use of median values to express sector-wide trends. Whenever highlighting sectoral averages in attendance, income, expenses, or staffing, the Data Hub uses median values. This is because medians are often preferrable to other ways of computing averages (like the statistical mean or mode) when it comes to museum data.

In this report, we explain why medians are so often the best way of identifying trends and tendencies for museums. Using examples from our research, we illustrate how museum data is often distorted by statistical outliers that make mean values less representative of the tendencies that most museums might see. This is the reason that medians offer a more accurate reflection of what a “typical” children’s museum should expect in their context.

By understanding what median values suggest, children’s museums will be better positioned to use the Data Hub to understand their financial positions, to support accountability to their funders based on industry norms in comparison to local conditions, and to assess performance compared to their peers.

Read the full ACM Trends #6.2 report >

ACM Information Brief on Mental Health

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Mental health is important.

Children’s museums have long been invested in creating environments where children thrive. Mental health is a pressing current issue for the children in our communities, and children’s museums have expansive opportunity to meet those needs with comprehensive, collaborative experiences that supplement the essential work of mental health professionals—providing all children with the skills to navigate their world with joy, wonder, and wellness.

ACM’s latest information brief The role of children’s museums in supporting children’s mental health, provides an overview of some primary research trends about children’s mental health and then shares insights about how children’s museums—community-serving organizations that reach millions of U.S. children each year—can bolster children’s mental health.


Paper commissioned by ACM | Written by KT Todd, Director of Learning and Research, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh