IMLS Grants Help Create and Sustain Better Libraries for Everyone

Learn about how the IMLS hopes to aid libraries and museums in impacting the lives of individuals.

Libraries and museums rely heavily on funding from grants to help supplement their financial needs in hosting events, running programs, and completing special projects in their community. Luckily, there are organizations in place that are dedicated to helping these institutions do the work they need. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is one of many supporters of libraries and museums across the country. Thanks to their contributions, thousands of awards have been distributed.

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Recently the IMLS announced over 200 grant awards to museums across the country to put towards improving services to their communities. These grants went towards supporting a variety of projects that strengthen museums as they work through a COVID-age. These grants represented the importance of the work that the nation’s cultural institutions are doing. 

Institute of Museum and Library Sciences

The IMLS works to transform the lives of individuals and communities through advancing, supporting, and empowering libraries, museums, and other related organizations in the country through grantmaking, research, and policy development. 

This federal agency has played a key role in supporting the work of many libraries and museums. Each year the IMLS generates impact by awarding hundreds of grants to state libraries, library services, museum services, and other initiatives. In 2020 alone, $280.6 million worth of awards were distributed among these categories. 

There are plenty of opportunities available to institutions on the IMLS website. Those that are searching for funding can easily browse potential grant programs to apply for. They can be filtered by fiscal year, funding office, location, or specific programs. A few we encourage taking a look at that are more broad include the IMLS CARES Act grants for Museums and Libraries, National Leadership Grants for Museums and for Libraries, and Museums Empowered.

200 Grants to Aid Museums

Early in August, the IMLS announced that it would be releasing $29,545,363 to museums all over America. These grant awards are from the largest competitive program that the IMLS has, the Museums for America grant program as well as special initiatives, the Museums Empowered and Inspire! Grants for Small Museums.                                              

Of the 758 programs that applied, only 208 projects were accepted with awards being matched to them with non-federal funds. These funds totaled up to $35,214,339. 

Museums for America

This grant program supports a museum’s ability to provide high quality and inclusive learning experiences to their communities. 126 different museum projects were funded through this grant program. A list of all projects can be found here.

These projects touched on a diverse range of topics. A few include:

  • The Wild Center (Tupper Lake, NY): $249,040 towards implementation of “Natural Connections: Lifelong Learning through Inclusive Digital Engagement” which uses nature experiences to benefit mental health and social-emotional wellbeing. 
  • Children’s Museum in West Hartford (West Hartford, CT): $91,590 towards collaborating with public library branches, family centers, and the children’s medical center to provide hands-on STEAM based programming.
  • Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR): $250,000 towards a retrospective exhibition of the works of Oscar Howe that includes a program in collaboration with teachers and students to create student-led tours, workshops, and after-school programs.

Museums Empowered

This special initiative under the Museums for America grant program is used for professional development opportunities for museum staff. 22 institutions were recipients of these awards and have projects focused on digital technology, diversity and inclusion, evaluation, or organizational management. 

A few examples of recipients and their projects include The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis which is using the grant money to prepare for cybersecurity threats including those related to COVID-19 and The Denver Museum of Nature and Science who is partnering with a researcher to create a tool that helps evaluate the meaningfulness of a visitor’s experience to the museum. 

Inspire! Grants for Small Museums

This special initiative was designed to support smaller museums in their efforts to serve their communities through exhibitions, programs, digital learning resources, professional development, and many other projects. The project categories within this program are lifelong learning, institutional capacity, and collections stewardship and access.

The initiative was created specifically to help reduce the burden on smaller institutions going through the application process. 60 recipients were identified as award winners of this grant.

An example of a recipient is The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco which is using the award to explore Asian American identity and xenophobia while highlighting youth stories in collaboration with the Community Youth Center. The Delaware Contemporary also received award money to create a residency program for artists to guide students through professional development and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Serving Libraries and Museums

The IMLS is the primary source of federal funding for museums and libraries in the country. The agency hopes to aid libraries and museums in impacting the lives of individuals. Funding opportunities are available year round and applications for fiscal year 2022 for these programs will close later this fall.