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IMLS Awards ALA Grant to Advance Library-Led Community Engagement

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


IMLS Press Contact
Giuliana Bullard,

IMLS Awards ALA Grant to Advance Library-Led Community Engagement

The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities partners ALA
with the Harwood Institute for phase one planning

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) today announced a 2012 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant of $250,837 to the American Library Association (ALA). ALA will partner with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation on the first phase of a multiphase initiative, The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities, which will develop a sustainable national plan to advance community engagement and innovation, and transform the role of libraries in their communities.  

"The ideas at the heart of this project are particularly timely for the challenges facing public libraries as they rethink their role in their changing communities," said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. "We are pleased to offer IMLS support of an initiative that leverages the expertise of two partners for a program that is scalable and can ultimately reach many librarians in many communities."

Speaking to the significance of the new initiative, ALA President Maureen Sullivan said, "The role and contribution of libraries in ensuring informed and engaged communities is critical to our society and the future of our democracy. This grant will provide librarians with the tools and training they need to lead their communities in finding innovative solutions to the challenges they face. Now is the time for librarians to assume this important leadership role. ALA very much appreciates this support from IMLS."

During the grant period, ALA and the Harwood Institute will develop librarians as conveners and facilitators for their communities and create a pilot set of resource components designed to build the practice of community engagement in library service throughout the field. The goal of this first project phase is to create core communication materials for dissemination to the field, collaboratively create innovative strategies for community engagement, improve participating ALA leader and member access to strategies and resources for community engagement, and help participants feel better prepared to take on the role of community facilitator. More than 350 librarians will take part in a range of professional development activities planned during the grant period. The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities is one of ALA President Maureen Sullivan's key initiatives.

The ALA Public Programs Office (PPO) will manage the project. PPO supports cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service in all types and sizes of libraries. Successful civic engagement library initiatives have included Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion and Engage! Teens, Art and Civic Engagement, as well as the Let’s Talk About It reading and discussion series, traveling exhibitions, film discussion programs, the Great Stories CLUB, LIVE! @ your library and more. The PPO website, an online resource center, brings librarians timely and valuable opportunities to support the creation of high-quality outreach programs for their communities. For more information about the ALA Public Programs Office, visit

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our grants, policy development, and research helps communities and individuals thrive by providing broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning. To learn more about IMLS, please visit

Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program