|Annual budget||$227.8 million for 2015|
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is an independent agency of the United States federal government established in 1996. It is the main source of federal support for libraries and museums within the United States, having the mission to "create strong libraries and museums that connect people with information and ideas." IMLS "works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development." Their vision is "a democratic society where communities and individuals thrive with broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning." In fiscal year 2015, IMLS had a budget of $228 million.
In addition to its other responsibilities, the IMLS annually awards the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest award given for community service by libraries and museums.
IMLS is located at 955 L'Enfant Plaza North, SW, Suite 4000, Washington, D.C. 20024-2135.
IMLS was established by the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) on September 30, 1996, which includes the Library Services and Technology Act and the Museum Services Act. This act was reauthorized in 2003 and again in 2010. The law combined the Institute of Museum Services, which had been in existence since 1976, and the Library Programs Office, which had been part of the Department of Education since 1956. Lawmakers at that time saw "great potential in an Institute that is focused on the combined roles that libraries and museums play in our community life."
As amended, MLSA authorizes IMLS to promote improvements in library services; to facilitate access to resources in libraries; to encourage resource sharing among libraries; to support museums in fulfilling their public service and educational roles; to encourage leadership and innovation to enhance museum services; to assist museums in the conservation of America's heritage; to support museums in achieving the highest standards of management and service to the public; and to support resource sharing among museums, libraries and other organizations. MLSA also authorizes IMLS to carry out and publish analyses of the impact of museum and library services.
The act comes up for reauthorization every 5 years. Adjustment to the act have been made over time.
In April 2014, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) recommended that the federal government not fund MLSA and "shift the federal agency’s responsibilities to the private sector in his 2015 fiscal year budget resolution" such as "funded at the state and local level and augmented significantly by charitable contributions from the private sector".
Following a proposal by President George W. Bush, the activities of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science was consolidated under IMLS, along with some of the activities of the National Center for Education Statistics, in order to create a unified body for federal support of library and information policy. The consolidation took effect in early 2008.
When Congress passed the Library Services and Technology Act in 1996, it moved library responsibilities out of the Department of Education and created the IMLS as new agency. The act stipulated that the agency maintain a rotating directorship starting with the former director of the Institute of Museum Services for a four-year term. In the fifth year, the directorship would pass to a representative from the field of library and information science.
Directors of the Institute of Museum and Library Services
Diane Frankel (1996): prior to leading the agency through its transition to include federal library as well as museum programs, Frankel served as director of the Institute of Museum Services.
Robert S. Martin (2001): preceding his position at IMLS, Martin was a professor and interim director of the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman's University. He also served as Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. He also articulated the convergence of new media in lifelong learning at the beginning of the millennium.
Anne-Imelda Radice (2006): she previously served as chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Education and as curator in the Office of the Architect of the Capitol. She earned a bachelor's degree from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts; a master's degree from Villa Schifanoia Graduate School of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy; a second master’s from American University in Washington, D.C.; and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Susan H. Hildreth (2011): she began her career as a branch librarian at the Edison Township Library in New Jersey, where she was president of the Public Library Association. She has also been the city librarian in Seattle and state librarian of California. In addition, Hildreth was deputy director of San Francisco Public Library.
Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew (2015): a scientist with a 30-year museum career, Matthew’s experience includes curation, collections management, and research roles at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and Cranbrook Institute of Science. Her experience includes fundraising and marketing roles at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Virginia Museum of Natural History, The Nature Conservancy, the Historic Charleston Foundation, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. She was also executive director of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
Crosby Kemper III (2020): former director of the Kansas City Public Library from 2005 until his confirmation as Director.
National issues and priorities
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) – Libraries and museums are improving learning in science, technology, engineering and math, a national priority for US competitiveness.
- Preservation, Conservation, and Care of Content and Collections – Libraries and museums care for collections that connect us to history, art, science and the natural world. The national initiative, Connecting to Collections, is an initiative to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for our treasures, and to underscore the fact that these collections are essential to the American story.
- National Digital Platform – The national digital platform is a way of thinking about and approaching the digital capability and capacity of libraries and museums across the US. In this sense, it is the combination of software applications, social and technical infrastructure, and staff expertise that provide digital content, collections, and related services to users in the US.
- Access to Content and Collections – Libraries and museums are using broadband to expand access to content and create communities where all people have the ability to access and use information technologies.
- Community – Libraries and museums build the civic strength of their communities and providing opportunities for public engagement. Museums and libraries are community anchors that drive economic and community development.
- Early Learning – Museums and libraries have special roles in meeting the needs of the youngest learners and their caregivers.
- Management of Content and Collections – IMLS programs support the stewardship of museum and library collections through our grant programs, as well as through sharing best practices in the development of collection plans, policies, and documentation.
- Makerspaces – Many museums and libraries have developed makerspaces, places where people can gather to create, invent, and learn, empowering them to become creators, not just consumers. They provide access to a diverse range of tools and technologies, along with knowledgeable staff and mentors. Museums and libraries are leveraging their content expertise and role as trusted community organizations to support the development of 21st century skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration, which are essential for the development of a competitive workforce and engaged citizenry
- Inclusive and Accessible Learning – Libraries and museums are unique in their capacity to engage learners of all ages and abilities. They help our communities support learning and development, support formal education from early elementary through the highest levels of research and scholarship, and create new interactive experiences using the latest research about learning.
- 21st Century Skill – The Institute's Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills initiative underscores the critical role our nation’s museums and libraries play in helping citizens build such 21st century skills as information, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy, and global awareness.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services offers numerous grants for museums, libraries, and other cultural heritage institutions. The grants support the IMLS's strategic goals of advancing "innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement." The grants include the following:
- Conservation Assessment Program
- Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies
- Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
- Examples of projects funded:
- ARL/SAA Mosaic Scholars program, created by the Association of Research Libraries and the Society of American Archivists, it provides funding and development opportunities to nine master's degree students from historically underrepresented groups to study archival science or special collections librarianship.
- Examples of projects funded:
- Museum Assessment Program
- Museum Grants for African American History and Culture
- Museums for America
- National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards
- National Leadership Grants for Libraries
- Examples of projects funded:
- The Digital Public Library of America, an online portal aggregating and providing access to millions of digitized items from libraries and archives across the United States.
- IRENE-3D project, developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, uses digital imaging techniques to scan and recover old vinyl and wax cylinder recordings and with a computer turns this information into a digital sound file (even broken recordings).
- Examples of projects funded:
- National Leadership Grants for Museums
- National Medal for Museum and Library Service
- Native American Library Services: Basic Grants
- Native American Library Services: Enhancement Grants
- Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program
- Native Hawaiian Library Services
- Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries
- Sparks! Ignition Grants for Museums
The Office of Impact Assessment and Learning (OIAL) "supports the agency in its efforts to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas." OIAL performs three key functions: policy research, evaluations, and survey and data collection.
Survey and data collection
- Data Catalog – Data relating to grants administration and data about libraries, museums, and related organizations.
- Public Library Survey (PLS) – collects data from 9,000 public library systems and 17,000 public library outlets.
- State Library Agency Survey (SLAA) – provides descriptive data about state libraries.
- Public Needs for Library and Museum Services Survey (PNLMS) – measures "expectations and satisfaction" with cultural heritage institutions through a household survey.
- Museum Universe Data File (MUDF) – contains information about cultural heritage institutions in the United States.
- Administration Discretionary Grant Data – Records of grants funded by IMLS since FY 1996.
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