News: Transformative Social Engagement and the Salzburg Curriculum

Salzburg curriculum post wordleOn October 19th, 2011 a group of library and museum innovators from over 31 countries gathered in Salzburg, Austria to discuss “Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture.” During the event co-sponsored by the Salzburg Global Seminar and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, one of the discussion groups developed recommendations for skills needed by librarians and museum professionals in today’s connected and participatory world.

The working group identified the isolation of library skills from museum and other professional skill sets as a weakness, and instead developed a framework for a comprehensive and joint library/museum curriculum. The group focused on the concepts, knowledge, and processes that librarians and museum professionals need to understand and know, realizing that participatory culture has ramifications both for traditional functions and emerging skills. The initial framework was an overview because of limited time, but many seminar participants, including major library science programs and museum continuing education coordinators pledged to use it. By better developing the framework with the original Salzburg participants and by opening the conversation to the entire library and museum worlds, it is proposed that the two systems of education and continuing education will experience positive and possibly unexpected synergistic benefits.

There are benefits to breaking down barriers between these two professions. Participatory culture requires libraries and cultural institutions to be innovative in the ways that they connect with the communities that they serve, not just through the use of technology, but in daily interactions as well. People are invited to explore The Salzburg Curriculum in further detail via the new website. Here are a few highlights:

Transformative Social Engagement

Transformative social engagement is the most essential skill set for information professionals to develop. Most institutions want to positively contribute to the community they serve, but to truly do so requires establishing connections with the community and maintaining those connections with things like activism, advocacy, and relevant public programming.


Using technology to engage with a community is essential. It is important for information professionals to teach people how to use new technologies, but it’s equally important for professionals to be able to co-learn and co-build with their community.

Management for Participation (Professional Competencies)

Institutions need to have clear goals and be aware of long-term sustainability. Big ideas are a welcome and necessary part of new librarianship, but there must be teamwork to put those big ideas into motion and sustain them. A strong infrastructure within an institution is necessary, but so are strong partnerships with the community. Another important part of participatory culture is teaching others the necessary skills to see projects through so that projects can remain in capable hands.

Asset Management

Asset management is more than just adding items to a collection. Participatory culture requires that institutions remain in constant dialogue with their community to assess what is important to a community and when it’s important to a community. It goes beyond collecting things like books or artifacts and also considers what other resources a community needs.

Cultural Skills

The concept of “culture” can be defined in many ways, ranging from the demographics of the community an institution serves to the environment an institution wishes to create. Developing communication skills is imperative and can impact everything from the way a community perceives the institution (language barriers, etc.) to the types of literacies the institution considers in its programming (such as visual learning vs. hands-on learning).

Knowledge, Learning, and Innovation

Museums and libraries are dynamic spaces where people go to learn and build. Innovation is needed in order to build and maintain strong community ties.

The Salzburg Curriculum is just the beginning. We invite everyone to visit the website and contribute to the conversation!

The working group and initial IMLS grant was lead by Dr. R. David Lankes, Syracuse University, School of Information Studies. The dissemination phase is being lead by Dr. Michael Stephens, San Jose State University, School of Library & Information Science. Melissa Arjona serves as research assistant and site architect.

Please visit the site to explore these ideas and see videos from R. David Lankes: