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Curating Collections: Introducing a New Library Grant Project Category

Friday, July 29, 2016

By Trevor Owens, Senior Program Officer
and Emily Reynolds, Program Officer
IMLS Office of Library Services

The Office of Library Services recently published information on 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 is part of 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.

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 Curating Collections Project Category

This year, we’re excited to introduce a new project category called Curating Collections to both LB21 and NLG. As an NLG project category, Curating Collections is focused on supporting projects that have the potential to make a national impact on the preservation and management of digital library collections and content across the country. As an LB21 category, it will support projects that will increase librarians’ and library professionals’ capacity to create, preserve, manage, and provide access to digital library collections across the country. In both programs, projects in this category must support work with digital collections (born-digital or digitized content); as a result, Curating Collections is closely related to the National Digital Platform project category.

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.

Curating Collections Projects in the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program
It is critical to underscore that Curating Collections projects proposed to the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program need to clearly establish how they will have a national impact. The guidelines explain that, “Projects focused on preserving or providing access to a particular collection or set of collections cannot be supported. Similarly, the program cannot support the digitization of content or pre-digitization activities such as inventorying collections.” For a competitive NLG proposal, the project must have a national impact, rather than only impacting a single collection or institution. As stated in the guidelines these projects may involve:

  • Rapid prototyping and testing of workflows and approaches to managing digital content or implementing and using digital tools and services in novel contexts to inform their development.
  • Catalyzing regional or national efforts to establish plans for shared services for preserving, conserving, providing access to, and interpreting digital content.
  • Scaling out regional or national infrastructure and shared services for the management, description, or analysis of digital collections in libraries. These projects should build on established and sustainable alliances and networks of libraries and include plans for broadening those alliances and networks. These projects should also clearly articulate how they plan to recruit and support smaller and mid-sized libraries’ engagement with infrastructure and services.
  • Exploring methods and techniques for providing digital access to users at scale. This may include issues such as digital stewardship, data curation, applications of linked data, or crowdsourcing.
  • Researching computational methods for working with collections that have significant potential to scale collecting, arranging, describing, preserving or providing access to digital content.

Curating Collections Projects in the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
In the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program, the Curating Collections project category focuses on supporting projects that will increase librarians’ and library professionals’ capacity to create, preserve, manage, and provide access to digital library collections across the country. Just as in the National Leadership Grants Program, this should involve a focus on digital collections (either digitized or born-digital content). Accordingly, projects focusing solely on analog collections would be inappropriate. As stated in the guidelines these projects may include:

  • Supporting efforts to establish plans for training library school students or library staff on topics related to preservation, conservation, and access. In particular, training should address the stewardship of digital collections and, as appropriate, the synergy with physical collections.
  • Identifying an emerging area of importance for librarian skill development as related to stewardship of digital collections, and bringing together stakeholders from both inside and outside the library sector to explore the topic. These projects should initiate new partnerships to increase the capacity of librarians to meet workforce needs.
  • Supporting formal or informal educational programs to increase librarians’ capacity related to the stewardship of digital collections. These projects should clearly demonstrate that they build on existing work, are grounded in the needs of a wide range of libraries and archives, and that they involve a range of partners.
  • Assessing the gaps in, needs for, and impact of investments in education and training products, services and networks to support stewardship of digital collections across a range of institutions.

 

For more information, visit the IMLS website https://www.imls.gov/ or contact a program officer for general questions.

Trevor Owens can be reached at TJOwens@imls.gov and Emily Reynolds can be reached at ereynolds@imls.gov

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