Emily Reynolds
Program Officer, IMLS Office of Library Services

IMLS recently announced 39 awards made through the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program (NLG) and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program (LB21). The four projects highlighted in this post represent a total investment of more than $1.3 million. Click the log number for each grant to access more information, including selected documents from each grant proposal.

IMLS recently awarded a number of new grants for projects that build on previous funding for tools and collaborations related to digital collections in libraries. Work in this area is happening at several funding levels, from large and mid-sized project grants to smaller national forum grants. The range of work described here illuminates the many types of activities that can advance the national digital platform for libraries and archives.

One of the key characteristics for successful NLG projects is “strategic collaborations,” which all four of the following projects exemplify. From building partnerships with other institutions to support software development, to seeking input from the field to develop best practices, these projects demonstrate a variety of ways in which project impact can be increased through collaboration. While a grant can only be awarded to a single institution, in many cases the funding is spread across many partner organizations.

Creating and enhancing digital library tools

Avalon Media System Logo

The largest grant awarded as part of this funding cycle was an NLG award of $967,088 made to Northwestern University for a partnership project with Indiana University Libraries (LG-70-17-0042-17). The project will make several enhancements to the Avalon audiovisual repository, which allows libraries and archives to curate and provide online access to digital audio and video. This funding builds on previous IMLS grants that supported the planning (LG-51-10-0135-10) and development (LG-05-11-0167-11) of the open source system. This project will increase adoption of the Avalon platform and help ensure its sustainability through a number of project goals: integrating Avalon with the Hydra community; implementing a cloud-hosted Software-as-a-Service version; and connecting Avalon to other media preservation systems and scholarly tools. This work will make Avalon more accessible to smaller institutions and will streamline workflows.

The University of Utah, in partnership with Boston Public Library, received a $249,999 NLG grant (LG-70-17-0043-17) to support software development for historical newspaper content in digital cultural heritage repositories. The project will result in an open data model, open source Hydra/Fedora plugins, and a community of practitioners dedicated to collaborating on best practices associated with digitized newspapers. By engaging the developers and content managers working with digitized newspaper collections, this project will help to boost the number of digitized newspapers in aggregators such as DPLA and will support discoverability of this content.

National Forum Grants to foster collaboration and build consensus

As we continue to fund the development and refinement of tools and infrastructures for digital library collections, libraries are also working to deepen collaboration and best practices for these tools. The following two projects received NLG National Forum grants, which support meetings of experts and key stakeholders around issues or challenges that are important to libraries or archives across the nation.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) received a $70,850 NLG grant (LG-73-17-0002-17) for its Digital Library Federation (DLF) to conduct a community needs assessment around measuring the reuse of materials within digital libraries. Work will be focused on developing use cases and functional requirements for a digital content reuse toolkit, through surveys and focus groups. The project arose from the DLF Assessment Interest Group and includes a project team from six different institutions.

Another NLG National Forum grant was awarded to LYRASIS, which received a grant of $100,000 (LG-73-17-0005-17) to convene stakeholders from open source software initiatives that serve cultural heritage organizations. The project will center around a forum of 60 program and governance leaders, users, and technical experts. The forum, as well as a resulting report, will raise awareness of the requirements, models, and other factors for sustainability of open source software. Like the CLIR/DLF project, this work includes stakeholders from a range of perspectives and institutions and will produce a report to be shared widely.

Collaboration has been a key component of the national digital platform funding area since its inception, but projects like these emphasize the degree to which our grant applicants are thinking outside of their own institutions. In 2015, the IMLS Focus: The National Digital Platform (PDF 8.6MB) report highlighted “Radical and Systemic Collaboration” as a vital element of this work, noting, “After more than twenty years of individual digital projects, small collaborations, and some incremental advancement, the time for radical, systemic collaboration has finally arrived.” Projects like these prove that point by collaborating nationally to advance practice for all libraries.

Emily Reynolds

About the Author
Emily Reynolds is a Program Officer in the Office of Library Services. She manages a portfolio of National Leadership Grants and Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grants in the national digital platform and curating collections project categories. Her portfolio focuses on digital cultural heritage in libraries and archives, including grants to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital collections. Emily can be reached at ereynolds@imls.gov.


Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
Initiative Publications