On September 30, 1996, Congress passed the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996, which created the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) within the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities. The legislation incorporated what had previously been programs of two separate agencies: the Institute of Museum Services (IMS) and the Library Programs Office of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the Department of Education.
IMS was created in 1976 as part of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the library programs had been in existence 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.” The newly created IMLS would comprise the Office of Museum Services and the Office of Library Services.
Today, IMLS has grown to serve as the primary federal support for that nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. The agency’s work benefits libraries of all types: public, research, academic and tribal; and museums of all disciplines: art, history, botanic gardens, aquariums, science and technology centers, children’s museums and zoos. With the help of a range of partners, we have inspired libraries and museums to advance innovation, learning and civic engagement. Now, as we prepare for the next 20 years we seek to empower libraries and museums to “Reimagine the Future” and continue to be catalytic forces in their communities, empowering and enriching the neighborhoods they serve.
“Libraries and museums don’t just preserve and promote our cultural treasures, they also enrich and enlarge our lives. And that’s really one of the most powerful things that you all do each and every day.”
- First Lady Michelle Obama, 2016 National Medal for Museum and Library Service Awards
Tell Us Your Story
September 30, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Museum and Library Services Act of 1996, which created the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We want to hear your story of how an IMLS grant helped your institution and changed your community. Or if you just want to shout out an amazing museum or library in your neighborhood, we want to hear those stories too. We will post your stories throughout the next year to share the great work that museums and libraries are doing. IMLSat20@imls.gov
A Look Back in Photographs