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Community Anchors: Introducing a New Grant Project Category

Thursday, July 28, 2016

By Sarah Fuller

IMLS Office of Library Services

The Office of Library Services recently published our FY 2017 application guidelines for both the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) and the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program (NLG). This post is part of a series 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.

Please be sure to review the first post in this series as it provides a general overview of the various category options for projects proposed in both the NLG and LB21 programs. Please refer to the official guidelines for full details, including application instructions and review criteria. If you are considering putting a proposal together, be sure to review these tips for developing a two-page preliminary proposal.

Understanding the Community Anchors Project Category

This year, we’re excited to introduce a new project category called Community Anchors to both LB21 and NLG. As an NLG project category, Community Anchors is focused on supporting projects that advance the role of libraries as community anchors that enhance civic and cultural engagement, facilitate lifelong learning, promote digital inclusion, and support economic vitality through programming and services. As an LB21 category, Community Anchors support projects that investigate and build the skills and knowledge of library professionals to support the role of libraries as community anchors that facilitate lifelong learning; enhance civic and cultural engagement; and support economic vitality, through programming and services.

Both guidelines (LB21 and NLG) identify the characteristics of successful proposals in these programs. These characteristics include collaborative approaches, potential for national or broad impact, demonstrating appropriate expertise, and focusing on issues of current or timely significance to the fields of library or archival practice. Despite these similarities, there is a central and fundamental difference between the primary purposes of the two programs. If the primary purpose of your project is education and training for library professionals, library students, or recruiting future professionals to develop a diverse workforce in library and information science, then your project is likely a better fit for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. If the focus of your project is to make a national impact on high-priority gaps facing libraries and archives through the development of tools, infrastructure, or otherwise, then you should likely apply to the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program.

Community Anchors Projects in National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program

It is critical to underscore that Community Anchors projects proposed to the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program need to clearly establish how they will have a national impact, rather than only impacting a single collection or institution. As stated in the guidelines, these projects may involve:

  • Testing strategies for increasing and sustaining relationships and collaborations between libraries and other community/cultural organizations in formal or informal settings; performing an environmental scan to better understand and serve community needs; incorporating universal, inclusive design principles; or piloting a program addressing a community need that has potential to be scaled and implemented in a variety of settings nationally. Possible community/cultural organizations might include, but are not limited to: museums, youth service organizations, community development groups, city departments, or workforce development organizations.
  • Exploring, designing, and/or developing new, replicable, and responsive library programming models and tools that engage communities and provide learning experiences for patrons across the lifespan, with focus on underserved communities. Possible audiences might include, but are not limited to, young children and their families/caregivers; tweens and teens; un- and underemployed adults; veterans; immigrants and refugees; people with disabilities; English language learners; and senior citizens.
  • Improving the development and assessment of programs and services contextualized to community issues/interests, patron interests, and localized demographics and economics. This could include interdisciplinary learning, literacy, providing access to STEAM professionals and citizen science, and supporting the learning of children with their families and caregivers, senior citizens, or persons with special needs.
  • Investigating widespread community challenges that both inform and are informed by current library and archival practice, feature mutually beneficial relationships between researchers and practitioners; and communicate research findings in ways that will lead to demonstrable improvements in library services, prolonged patron engagement, and increased reach to new and repeat patrons and underserved audiences. Findings, including unexpected results and challenges, must be shared broadly—with other individuals, institutions, communities, states, and across the nation—throughout the grant period, rather than at the conclusion of a project. Research teams must ensure that new practices have the potential to be easily adoptable, affordable, sustainable, and widely implemented.

Community Anchors Projects in Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program

In the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program, the Community Anchors project category focuses on investigating and building the skills and knowledge of library professionals so they are better equipped to support their communities. As stated in the guidelines, training, research, and educational opportunities may focus on:

  • Assessing opportunities for developing new community-based programs, relationships, promising products or services that support and engage their communities.
  • Designing educational opportunities informed by other sectors and disciplines that support library professionals’ mastery of new skills to improve their ability to address community needs. These skills may include: project management, partnership development, design thinking, data analytics, impact assessment, participatory programming, leadership development, and iterative product development or systems analysis.
  • Investigating widespread community challenges that both inform and are informed by current library and archival practice, feature mutually beneficial relationships between researchers and practitioners; occur between practitioners and their communities; and communicate findings in ways that have the potential to improve library services.

For more information on the IMLS grant programs, visit our website at https://www.imls.gov/ or contact one of our program specialists to answer general questions.

Sarah Fuller is a program specialist in the Office of Library Services. She can be reached at sfuller@imls.gov

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