From the Director: The Institute of Museum and Library Services
March 28, 2017
Over the past week, you may have heard the organization “Institute of Museum and Library Services,” or IMLS, mentioned in the news or seen it trending on social media. While many in the library industry are well acquainted with IMLS and its impact on libraries and museums across the nation, much of the public is unfamiliar with its purpose and work.
IMLS was established in 1996 as an independent agency of the U.S. government. The mission of IMLS, as stated by their website, is “to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement.” Essentially, IMLS supports the work of libraries and museums through a variety of mechanisms including grant funding for programs and services that benefit the community.
At Mid-Continent Public Library, IMLS funding has enabled us to offer many valuable resources to our customers—from early literacy computer stations that are equipped with stimulating, educational programs for children, to communication devices for customers with hearing and speech impairments. IMLS also helps fund “Show Me The World,” our WorldCat resource sharing services. Most recently, IMLS funding was used to outfit MCPL’s Reading Rocket, an early literacy mobile unit that travels to underserved areas of the community, with resources for the Library’s annual Summer Learning Program.
Over the past few years, IMLS funding has been instrumental in the implementation of the following initiatives at MCPL:
- Creation Stations – technology and training for teens
- Storytime on the Move – early literacy fairs for at-risk populations
- Teens, Tots, and Tales – outreach and education for teen parents on the importance of early literacy
- Laptop Project – offering laptops for checkout to expand computer access
- Rural Branch Network Switch Project – enhancing the Wi-Fi at our rural branches
- Midwest Genealogy Center Microfilm Upgrade – improving the technology at MGC for family history researchers
IMLS decreases the risk so we can try innovative ideas. When our experiments are successful, libraries all over the nation can learn from us as we learn from successful trials going on at other libraries. IMLS funding is even more critical for smaller libraries. In fact, many smaller library systems utilize IMLS funding to fulfill basic library services that residents like you and I take for granted.
In the state of Missouri, IMLS funds come via a state grant program that matches the IMLS funds with state funds. State funding for libraries has been in jeopardy in recent years, and the loss of IMLS funds would likely increase that risk. Across the country, the loss of IMLS would mean many public, academic, research, and other libraries would be unable to continue offering a plethora of vital resources.
If you are interested in learning more about the Institute of Museum and Library Services, I encourage you to explore their website at www.imls.gov.
Steven V. Potter
Library Director & CEO