Tribal Libraries Focused on Preservation of Culture and Languages

Tribal Libraries Focused on Preservation of Culture and Languages

Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library sciences is an independent federal agency that supports museums and libraries in the country through grants, policy development, and research. It was created in 1996 and has made it its mission to inspire libraries and museums to transform the lives of individuals and communities. With their work, the IMLS hopes to promote learning, build and strengthen the capacity of libraries and museums, and increase public access to resources. The IMLS strategically aligns its resources and relationships to aid libraries and museums.

There are several grants being awarded every year that libraries and museums can apply for. These grants are expansive in what they cover and were created to accommodate different sizes and types of projects and institutions. A few of these include museum grants for African American history and culture, leadership grants for libraries, grants for small museums, and many others. A full list can be found on the IMLS website.

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Power and Impact of IMLS Grants

In August, the IMLS announced grant awards totaling $5,561,835 that would go to three programs that were specifically designed to support library services for tribal communities and Native Hawaiians. These grants include:

  • Native American Library Services Basic Grants: Non-competitive grants that are awarded equally among applicants and used to support existing library operations and core services. This totaled $1,806,790 and was awarded to 172 Indian Tribes, Alaskan Native villages, and other regional and village corporations.
  • Native American Library Services Enhancement Grants: Awarded to applicants that have also applied for the Library Services Basic Grant in the same year, this grant supports improving core library services. 24 applicants received funding totaling $3,305,045.
  • Native Hawaiian Library Services Grants: These grants are specifically for nonprofit organizations that primarily serve and represent Native Hawaiians and are used to enhance or implement library services. Three organizations received a total award amount of $450,000.

The grant funding that the applicants receive helps preserve the heritages of Native communities. In some examples, this would look like preserving or bringing back languages and cultures that may have been lost throughout the generations. Preservation of history is a key component of understanding the journey that people have taken. Others center around educational programming for community members and preserving Native cultures, practices, and language.

Grant Projects

The Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College Community Library is using their grants to work on digitizing community newspapers that will serve as primary sources. These include photographs, tribal elections, yearbooks, newsletters, and other materials. The Pacific American Foundation is also working on growing their digital collections by creating a database covering federal efforts to colonize remote islands in the Pacific before World War II. The focus will be the contributions and sacrifices made by Native Hawaiian colonists.

Other grant applicants are using the funding to build upon current library programming and spreading cultural awareness. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Library is working on preserving the Paiute language by offering weekly online classes and discussion groups led by tribal leaders and implementing language classes for students from daycare to high school. There will also be culture classes that cover hunting, tribal customs, ethnobotany, and other topics. The Wyandotte Nation Library is also building cultural awareness by offering classes on Wyandotte culture, crafts, and language. They are also using the grant funds to provide early literacy programs to youth and their families as well as a LEGO club to conduct STEAM, reading, and art lessons.

With the resources dedicated by Congress through the IMLS, library services for these communities are able to reach their potential and create impactful work on behalf of and for their communities. These grants can be applied for each year. For more information, visit the IMLS grant page.