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Creating Innovative Libraries: The Thursday Keynote

Susan Hildreth

Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum ad Library Services (IMLS), reviewed the work of IMLS and its activities and goals.

The IMLS was created about 15 years ago through the Museum and Library Servies Act. It is primarily a granting agency for libraries, with a focus on research and policy development. IMLS is a successor to the former National Commission on Libraries and Information Services (NCLIS). Its current budget is $232 milllion, which is about the same as last year.

Here are the funding categories of the Laura Bush 21st century librarian program.

Other IMLS grants include:

  • National Leadership Grants for projects having a national impact–trend-setting work. They support research and demonstration projects related to managing data and metadata development.
  • Sparks! Ignition Grants: small innovation grants that test creative activities potentially having a broad impact and significant innovation.

Societal shifts such as these are having a significant effect on the library and museum world.  It has become important to engage learners and be embedded in communities.

Because of these shifts, IMLS created a new strategic plan and identified some draft priorities.  It has the following goals, grouped into broad general categories:

  1. Learning: place the learner at the center and support engaging experiences in libraries and museums that prepare people to be full participants in their local communities and our global society. Move libraries from “nice to have” to “need to have”. We need libraries in a democratic society. Learning is a lifetime process. Libraries have a huge role in informal learning. For examples, see The do-it-yourself and maker culture is growing. People want to learn by doing, which is a great opportunity for libraries to provide maker cultures and spaces. Think about how you can repurpose your spaces to make an engaging learning experience. Begin engagement with reading at the earliest age possible.  (IMLS focuses on success at the 3rd grade.) A partnership with the MacArthur Foundation supports creation of digital media laboratories in 30 libraries and museums. It is based on Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia Center.
  2. Community: IMLS promotes museums and libraries as strong community anchors that enhance civic engagement, cultural opportunities, and economic vitality.All services must be provided in a virtual world as well as in the community. One focus is on how libraries can support the workforce: In recent years, a study showed that 77 million people used a library public access computer, 30 million of whom used it for career and employment needs. An IMLS partnership with Department of Labor highlights workforce boards and onestop for advice. Project Compass links libraries to share strategies for helping the unemployed find work. The National Broadband Plan is expanding digital educational content, online learning systems, and promoting digital literacy.
  3. Content: IMLS supports exemplary stewardship of museum and library collections and promotes the use of technology to facilitate discovery of knowledge and cultural heritage. See its “Connecting to Collections” report. Working with big data is a huge challenge; IMLS is partnering with 7 organizations on the Digging Into Data challenge and is expanding public access through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).
  4. Equitable Access to Knowledge: IMLS advises the President and Congress on plans, policies, and activities to sustain and increase public access to information and ideas. Document distribution of broadband in the US.
  5. Public management excellence: IMLS achieves excellence in public management and performs as a model organization through strategic alignment of its resources and prioritization of programmatic activities, maximizing value for the America public. An IMLS performance improvement model was created, strategies were developed, and publicity was created.
Here are IMLS’s vision and mission and the key goals of its strategic plan:



The rationale for the DPLA is shown here.  It is now in proof of concept.

The DPLA project is managed at Berkman Center at Harvard. The DPLA is a collaborative effort of librarians, technologists, educators, creators, students, and others.  Everything in it will be open source, and it is currently looking for content.


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