“Once Again, From the Beginning:” Re-inventing the Museum Library at the University of Pennsylvania

How to Cite

Stewart, D. (2024). “Once Again, From the Beginning:” Re-inventing the Museum Library at the University of Pennsylvania. International Journal of Librarianship, 9(2), 17–27. https://doi.org/10.23974/ijol.2024.vol9.2.363
Received 2023-12-11
Accepted 2024-04-08
Published 2024-06-20


As university museums and academic programs struggle with issues of relevancy and harmful legacies, the libraries that are embedded within these institutions must reckon with similar challenging issues because of their own histories, collections content, museum-adjacent programs, and assumed authority in the supported disciplines. Such departmental libraries already occupy uncomfortable positions within complex institutions, often functioning as minor players in the university’s library systems, but only tenuously linked through location or subject matter expertise to the university’s museums and affiliated departments.

Offered as an instructive example is the Museum Library at the University of Pennsylvania, affiliated with the sometimes embattled Penn Museum. This “Report from the Field” essay describes the Museum Library’s methods for participating in a rapidly evolving museum’s strategic initiatives and supporting the sincere investment of its dedicated staff in making meaningful changes. I also discuss the Museum Library’s own complicated history and our reflections as we remake the library in the face of local and global challenges.



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