Open Conversations
Public Learning in Libraries and Museums
by David Carr
September 2011, 175pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-59158-771-2
$50, £39, 44€, A69
eBook Available: 978-1-59158-770-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

In previous eras, libraries and museums were regarded as sanctified repositories of knowledge entrusted with the maintenance of records and archives, and the collection and stewardship of historical artifacts. While these institutions can continue to play these roles in the 21st century, the advent of the Internet and other digital technologies has greatly diminished the need for libraries and museums to concentrate on documentation of the past. Arguably, today’s librarians and curators should focus their services on examining the present and future.

Cultural institutions must reimagine their roles as education facilities for their communities and address the public need for conversations in safe and fair places, thereby renewing their essential place in democratic society. This book explains how.

Open Conversations: Public Learning in Libraries and Museums is a provocative book, one that is designed to offer courage to cultural institution administrators and staff even as it opens their eyes to the possibility that their facilities can offer more than they are. Rather than offering prescriptive answers, the author invites readers to consider museums and libraries in fresh ways.

Author David Carr believes professionals in libraries and museums need to think more broadly. He challenges them to address communities, national social change, psychology, and learning, and to think about ways to frame their institutions, not as repositories or research chambers, but as instruments for human thinking. Now is the time for these institutions to recover their integrity and purpose as fundamental, informing structures in a struggling democracy. Based on lectures and previously published writings by the author, and drawing on new scholarship and research, the essays here will inspire professionals to understand their collections and institutions as instruments of personal, social, and cultural change.


  • An annotated bibliography of key works
  • A standard bibliography
David Carr, PhD, has observed cultural institutions for four decades and has assisted programs and professionals in an array of settings, such as the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, and the Queens Museum of Art. Formerly on the faculties of Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Dr. Carr has published two collections of essays, The Promise of Cultural Institutions and A Place Not a Place: Reflection and Possibility in Museums and Libraries.


"Carr’s thoughts about libraries and museums in the cultural landscape will provide professionals a new way of viewing their institutions. This book will be useful in library school classroom discussions and by professionals who want to broaden the focus and direction of their institutions."—Library Journal, January 1, 2012
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