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Rev Your Engines

July 18, 2013

Sparks! Ignition Grants Gear Up to Explore Innovations in Library and Museum Service

By Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Need some inspiration? Take a look at the Sparks! Ignition Grants we announced this week. These grants are an opportunity to explore an innovative idea and then report back about lessons learned. During the program’s three-year run, we’ve seen that library and museum professionals are a creative bunch; they’re taking risks and discovering new ways of thinking about operations and service.

Many of our 2011 grantees have posted white papers about their experiences, and if you’d like to take a peek at some great inventiveness, browse through these reports. Here’s a taste:

  • Learn how the New York Public Library worked with leading game designers to build an online tool to crowd-source transcription of its amazing collection of digitized menus --  View/Download (PDF)
  • Find out what the Museum of Science - Boston discovered about two strategies to implement universal design in drop-in programs View Download (PDF)
  • Want to know more about what happened when the Brooklyn Public Library used a video screen with a live connection to one of the library’s information services staff to greet new visitors?  View/Download (PDF)
  • Discover what happened when ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington, VT created a museum-media partnership that combines the interpretive expertise of a science center, the mass public appeal of a television news channel, and the accessibility of a community-driven website to engage audiences to take environmental action in their local communities. View/Download (PDF)


We’re expecting more great insights from this year’s winners. They are all exciting, but here are just a few to watch: 

  • The Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland California knows that firetrucks grab children’s attention. Working together with local firefighters they will see what happens when they bring telescopes and computer equipment on shiny red fire engines to local neighborhoods.
  • The Towson University Center for Geographic Information Systems will discover how integrating several datasets can create a map- and market-driven picture of library users and their preferences.
  • The Friends of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences will see how they can adapt hotel software to provide detailed wayfinding maps for blind and visually impaired visitors.
  • The Austin Public Library will partner with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas to learn more about engaging citizens and raising awareness about carbon-neutral reuse options for books and materials being weeded from library collections.
  • The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle will test using photogrammetry on “macro-artifacts” to monitor for changes overtime. Photogrammetry is the process of determining the geometric properties of objects from photographic images. This technique could be a good way to see if there is a conservation issue that needs to be addressed.


Let us know about innovations happening in your local library or museum. And share what you know so that we can continue to shine a spotlight on what works and lessons learned.

Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries