Do You Know about the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)?

The IMLS makes amazing things possible for libraries and museums!

If you're not familiar with the IMLS, you should expect some surprises.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent agency of the United States federal government established in 1996. It is the primary source of federal support for US libraries and museums, with the mission to “advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development.”

Museum and Library Services Act of 1996

The Museum and Library Services Act of 1996 (MLSA) established the Institute of Museum and Library Services within the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities. The new agency combined the former Institute of Museum Services and federal museum programs, which had existed since 1976, with the Library Programs Office and federal library program that had been part of the Department of Education since 1956.

Today, the agency is a member of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, along with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Public Programs and Special Initiatives

IMLS provides a broad and diverse range of museum- and library-related services. One is America250, a multiyear effort to commemorate the semiquincentennial (250th anniversary) of the nation’s founding. The nonpartisan U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, created by Congress, and the supporting nonprofit America250 Foundation are leading this effort nationally.

Community outreach through museums and libraries that want to engage diverse audiences and foster civic discourse will be at the project’s core. PBS Books provided free resources and offered webinars to support museum and library staff in designing programs, such as integrating the video content to host screening events and community conversations around the series themes.


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Information Literacy Task Force

According to the American Library Association, “Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to ‘recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.’”

IMLS is also working on an interagency task force and facilitating the development of a resource portal bridging information literacy research and practice to advance information literacy in communities. This group is charged with helping libraries and community organizations support specific challenges faced by people of all ages.

National Medal for Museum and Library Service

This award is the “nation’s highest honor for institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities.” Since 1994, IMLS has presented the award to 182 outstanding libraries and museums of all types and sizes that profoundly impact their communities. On May 23, 2023, IMLS announced eight winners for the 2023 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. These include the following:



The First Lady of the United States usually presents the award. So, on July 17, 2023, First Lady Jill Biden hosted the year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service ceremony.


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After a complete renovation, the Discovery Museum reopened in 2024. This hands-on institution blends science, nature, and play, inspiring families to explore and learn together. The museum, with its accessible outdoor playscape and giant treehouse, encompasses the best of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) learning on a beautiful 4.5-acre campus abutting 180 acres of conservation land in Acton, MA, about twenty miles west of Boston.

Hands-on, open-ended exhibits developed by professional educators inspire curiosity and exploration, providing a fun and engaging experience for children and adults to discover their world together. The museum is devoted to informal education that enhances classroom learning and serves families and schools from towns throughout the region.

National Student Poets Program

This program is the nation’s highest honor for young poets presenting original work. This partnership between IMLS and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers acknowledges student poets’ achievements at the national level and shows the importance of literacy.

Each year, a national panel of literary luminaries selects five National Student Poets from Gold and Silver National Medalists in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards poetry category.

These ambitious youngsters, nominated in grades 10 and 11, are appointed at a special ceremony. During their year of service, they lead readings and workshops at libraries, museums, and schools and participate in a range of regional literary and arts events representing five geographical regions of the nation. On November 13, 2023, First Lady Jill Biden honored the Class of 2023 National Student Poets at the White House in Washington, DC.

Save America’s Treasures

Save America’s Treasures (SAT) is a grant program from the National Park Service in collaboration with IMLS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was designed to support the preservation of nationally significant historic properties and collections that convey our nation’s rich heritage to future generations.

Since 1999, more than four thousand requests for funding totaling over $1.54 billion have been received. More than $315.7 million was awarded for 1,300+ projects. The National Park Service (NPS) administers the SAT program in cooperation with its partners, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


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Addressing Long-Standing Inequities

Museums for All

Museums for All is a partnership between IMLS and the Association of Children’s Museums that encourages low-income families to visit museums and build lifelong habits. Participating museums offer free or significantly reduced admission fees to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cardholders year-round. The program comprises over one thousand museums, making free or discounted museum visits possible for over five million children and families nationwide.

National Tribal Broadband Summit

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) statistics show that American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities have less access to broadband than the general US population.

The National Tribal Broadband Summit is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s ongoing efforts to close the digital divide. It builds on an all-of-government approach to support Tribal sovereignty in the digital arena to ensure Tribal lands are fully connected. The Summit’s aim is collaboration with federal partners, Tribal Nations, and others to make broadband development on Tribal lands less burdensome. New technologies and innovative partnership solutions should fully support Tribal self-governance.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is a $3 billion program directed to Tribal governments for use in broadband deployment on Tribal lands. It’s also for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion.



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