This Federal Agency Impacts Every American, Chances Are You Have Never Heard of It

To meet the needs of libraries all over the nation, The Institute of Museum and Library Services is passionate about supporting necessary resources for evolving communities.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is an independent grantmaking agency that provides federal support to museums and libraries in the United States. You have probably never heard about this agency. Still, they play a significant role in the survival of libraries. Here is everything you should know about the IMLS and its importance for your local library funding.

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The Institute of Museum and Library Services

The IMLS aims to make libraries, museums, and information services accessible. They accomplish this by funding initiatives that improve collective knowledge, lifelong learning, and civic engagement.

The IMLS’s mission is to support, empower, and advance the nation’s leading information services through various forms of funding. Using grantmaking, policy development, and research, the IMLS supports libraries and museums. They envision a future where libraries and museums work together to change the lives of communities everywhere.

Goals and Objectives

Upon establishment by the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996, lawmakers understood the importance of libraries and museums. This puts the IMLS in charge of educating policymakers about the numerous benefits of funding libraries, information services, and museums.

To meet the needs of libraries all over the nation, the IMLS is passionate about supporting necessary improvements for evolving communities. The IMLS already has four strategic goals. As of 2022, they’ve created a new strategic plan that will last until 2026. The strategic goals for 2022–2026 include:

  • Promoting lifelong learning
  • Building capacity
  • Increasing public access
  • Achieving excellence

Response to COVID-19

Throughout 2021, the IMLS distributed $178 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to respond to COVID-19. Other grantmaking efforts in response to the global pandemic included an additional $4 million from the CARES act. In addition, the Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project continued to provide resources to information services across the country.

Libraries and museums have always been about sharing public, accessible information. To support this persisting goal, the IMLS launched a campaign called Communities for Immunity in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This educates people about the COVID-19 vaccine and provides evidence-based materials to ensure trust.

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Grants and Awards

In 2021, the IMLS awarded funds through the ARP Act, the CARES Act, and through managing the REALM project. They also created new awards in 12 programs and monitored continued mentions in 13 programs. The following information includes examples of grant money awarded to three of their goal areas.

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Library

This awarded library is preserving their Paiute language, Kooyooe Tuka. The language is at risk of disappearing, so they’re hosting weekly Paiute language classes and discussion groups initiated by tribal elders. They’re expanding their efforts to preserve their language by offering Paiute classes for daycare, Head Start, and high school students. These classes also include lessons on culture and crafts focusing on tribal customs relating to fishing, hunting, gardening, etc.

The Ferguson Library

The Ferguson Library of Stamford, Connecticut, has partnered with Bentech to improve its library services for people with disabilities. Their goal is to increase accessibility and reduce reading barriers by developing educational resources and building the capacity of libraries. IMLS would do this through customizable and convenient reading materials and accessible digital supplies. Ten diverse organizations have agreed to support the project alongside eBook industry stakeholders.

Georgia Public Library

The Prime-Time Family Reading time (PT) is a service offered by the Georgia Public Library. Created by the Louisiana Endowment for Humanities, this is a storytelling series for underserved families with children ages 6–10. Each session is about 90 minutes long, with translators available to initiate discussions in Spanish and English. Many of these children’s books are diverse, award-winning, and centered around themes of humanity. The program aims to help educationally and economically vulnerable families bond over reading.

IMLS Partnerships

By law, the IMLS must support libraries, museums, and information services through several different strategies. The agency works with strategic partnerships and collaborates with other federal agencies to follow through with their mission. For 2021, the agency focused on partnerships related to COVID-19 response, economic recovery, racial equity, infrastructure, and preserving essential collections.

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