By IMLS Office of Library Services, Discretionary Programs

Editor’s Note: The Office of Library Services recently published its FY 2017 application guidelines for both the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) and the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program (NLG). This is the first in a series of posts drawing attention to key points in the Notices of Funding Opportunity (guidelines) for those programs, focusing on elements of the programs that have been refined or changed from previous years. This post will provide an overview of the various category options for projects proposed in each program. If you are considering putting a proposal together, be sure to review these tips for developing a two-page preliminary proposal.

When completing your application to NLG or LB21, you will have to select a number of different category options on the IMLS Program Information Sheet. The project category defines the topical area of the proposed project, and includes three options: Community Anchors, Curating Collections, and National Digital Platform. The funding category defines the level of funding being requested, as well as the type of activities being undertaken. For LB21, applicants must also select a project type, which relates to the delivery method or audience served by the project.

Please note: applicants in the Early Career Development project type (LB21 only) do not need to select a project category. Please refer to the LB21 guidelines for more information.

Project Categories (NLG and LB21)

This year, both NLG and LB21 will have three project categories. Each application is required to select a single project category for their project, based on its topical focus.

NLG and LB21 project categories are:

  • Community Anchors
  • Curating Collections
  • National Digital Platform

Stay tuned for blog posts about each of these categories; in the meantime, you can refer to the guidelines for details about what these categories mean in the context of each program.

Funding Categories (NLG and LB21)

The funding categories define different kinds of projects based on funding level. Both programs include four of the same funding categories: planning grants, national forum grants, project grants and research grants. Your funding category selection will impact the amount of funding you can request; that information is summarized in a table at the bottom of this section.

Sparks Grants, an initiative within the NLG program, previously had its own guidelines and application deadline. For 2017, Sparks has been folded back into the NLG program as a funding category.

LB21 and NLG funding categories are:

  • Sparks Grants (NLG only) are small grants for rapid prototyping and evaluating of specific innovations in the ways libraries operate and the services librarians provide resulting in new tools, products, services, or organizational practices.
  • Planning Grants allow project teams to perform preliminary planning activities, such as analyzing needs and feasibility, solidifying partnerships, developing project work plans, or developing prototypes, or proofs of concept, and pilot studies.
  • National Forum Grants provide the opportunity to convene qualified groups of experts and key stakeholders, including those from adjacent fields as appropriate, with the purpose of fostering discussion and consideration of nationally important professional development and education-related issues among libraries and archives across the nation.
  • Project Grants in LB21 support projects to develop faculty and library leaders, recruit and educate the next generation of librarians and archivists, conduct research, and assist in the professional development of librarians and archivists. Project Grants in NLG support fully developed projects for which needs assessments, partnership development, feasibility analyses, prototyping, and other planning activities have been completed. Given the national focus of the programs, it is essential that projects have clear potential for national impact and involve partners from multiple parts of the country or a region.
  • Research Grants involve the investigation of key questions important to library or archival practice. Research projects should address an area of interest or concern for libraries and archives and may build upon prior work to apply further development of a concept or approach or nuances to scale to new contexts or use.

These categories relate directly to the available funding levels for your project. We’ve summarized this information in the table below; please refer to the NLG and LB21 guidelines for additional details.




Sparks Grants

Up to $25,000


Planning Grants

Up to $50,000

Up to $50,000

National Forum Grants

Up to $100,000

Up to $100,000

Project Grants

Up to $2,000,000

$50,000 - $1,000,000

Research Grants

Up to $2,000,000

Up to $500,000

Cost sharing requirements also vary by program, funding level, and category, so please refer to the NLG and LB21 guidelines for exact requirements.

Project Types (LB21 only)

In the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, project types relate to the audience and delivery method of your proposed program. Each application must select one of the following: pre-professional, masters-level and doctoral-level programs, early career development research, or continuing education. Please note that the pre-professional project type has not been available for the past several years, but is returning to LB21 for FY2017.

LB21 project types are:

  • Pre-Professional: Recruit future professionals to develop a diverse workforce in library and information science.
  • Masters-level and Doctoral-level Programs: Master’s Programs: educate the next generation of librarians and archivists in nationally accredited graduate library programs to meet the evolving needs of the profession and society. Doctoral Programs: Develop faculty to educate the next generation of library and archives professionals.
  • Early Career Development: Support the early career development of new faculty members in library and information science by supporting innovative research by untenured, tenure-track faculty.
  • Continuing Education: Improve the knowledge, skills, and abilities of library and archives staff through programs of continuing education.

For more information, visit the webpage the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant program or the National Leadership Grant program.

Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
National Leadership Grants for Libraries