Libraries Take Key Roles in IMLS Community Catalyst Grant Projects

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has awarded 12 organizations Community Catalyst Grants totaling $1,637,271. Libraries are project partners of eight of the 12.

Rose Library at Emory University
Photo credit: Rion Rizzo

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, has awarded 12 organizations Community Catalyst Grants totaling $1,637,271. Libraries are project partners of eight of the 12. The grant initiative is a new effort to strengthen collaboration between museums, libraries, institutions of higher education, archives, and community organizations in developing broad-based efforts to serve local communities. “In response to changing community needs, libraries are connecting with their users in new and innovative ways, ways that extend beyond traditional institutional formats. These grants will help illustrate how libraries can further strengthen the social and institutional networks that support community well-being,” IMLS director Kathryn K. Matthew told Library Journal. “We are excited to see how these awardees reimagine their roles and forge deeper relationships with their communities to craft a common vision.” Each organization will receive amounts ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 to focus on a specific social, educational, or environmental concern.


City of Baltimore The Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL) will partner with the University of Maryland School of Social Work on the Social Worker in the Library program to serve low-income Baltimoreans. Free programs to help customers cope with poverty, homelessness, and addiction will be offered at several EPFL locations, following the example of such systems as San Francisco Public Library, Denver Public Library, San José Public Library, Queens Public Library, and others. The project will also prepare library staff to handle crisis situations. Outcomes will be tracked via intake charting and evaluations. What is most exciting to those at Enoch Pratt, EPFL grant manager Sarah McCann told LJ, is the involvement of social work students. “The project gives a whole other sector of the population an understanding of the true value of libraries and their role in communities. Young people drawn to the causes of social justice, equity, and empathy will see libraries as partners in that work.” McCann believes that what set EPFL’s grant application apart was its choice of partner. The school wanted a meaningful field placement, and the library had an increasing need to connect customers to food, housing, and legal resources. “The synergy really worked,” she said. She advises grant-seeking libraries to partner with groups that are both truly aligned and that have existing infrastructure. “This will allow you to set up a project that provides real value for all involved,” she said. Emory University, Atlanta The Rose Library at Emory will partner with the Equality Foundation of Georgia, Emory Center for AIDS Research, and Southern Christian Leadership Coalition Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now on a project to address and spread awareness of the rise of HIV/AIDS in metro Atlanta, including the historical reasons for disparities in diagnosis and care. (The rate of infections is skyrocketing in the South, and in particular African-American men who do not have access to care are disproportionately affected.) A framework with which institutions can deploy resources to empower communities and connect the stories of divergent groups will be developed. One of Rose Library’s collection areas is HIV/AIDS activism in Atlanta and Georgia, which is documented through both its LGBTQ and African American collections. “We saw this grant as a great opportunity to pull together the threads of our historical collections to current medical research and community activism,” explained Courtney Chartier, head of research services at Rose. She thinks that expanding on existing strengths was what ultimately made the application rise to the top. “I'd recommend considering your best assets when developing program ideas for a grant application,” she urged. Ohio History Connection (OHC), Columbus, OH    The Columbus Metropolitan Library is working with OHC to cultivate the advocacy skills of emerging leaders in the immigrant and new American community. A collective impact model will connect participants to resources, including health and housing, parks and recreation, and cultural exchanges. The learnings from the ENACT program will be shared with the museum and library fields to advance best practices in outreach to this population. “We believe this grant will be successful because it is rooted in the principle of community,” Ibrahima Sow, OHC community engagement coordinator, told LJ.  “By working together with other institutions throughout Columbus, we will provide a complete education in the many resources and skills required to better a community and build leadership.” Sow advises those seeking grants to collaborate with neighbor institutions. “Leveraging the expertise of partners can create stronger community connections and lead to success for broad-focused programs like ENACT,” said Sow.


Illinois Joining Forces Foundation, Chicago The foundation will partner with the Illinois Library Association, DePaul University's Egan Center, and the University of Illinois Springfield's GIS Lab to identify service gaps in the seven Illinois regions with the highest veteran populations. A process for mapping museum, library, and community assets will lead to the establishment of a veteran support community that is integrated into a statewide network of veteran service providers. Syracuse University, NY The university's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) will partner with Walmart Foundation, Unite Us, Buncombe County Public Libraries, and VAYA Health to scale its AmericaServes model for the western region of North Carolina. AmericaServes helps the military community navigate civilian-life services. The project will encourage libraries to be learning hubs and service providers in and around Asheville, NC. “Libraries, and Buncombe County’s in particular, have been the platform of choice for IVMF, [with] a capacity which best draws our communities into responsibility and action to serve citizens who serve our country,” Jim McDonough, IVMF’s managing director of programs and services and the grant lead, told LJ. His suggestion to librarians? “Ask patrons if they’ve served in the United States Armed Forces. If they answer positively, become the point of connection between them and community resources. I’d even love to see library cards identify patrons who served their country.”


Explora Science Center & Children's Museum, Albuquerque The museum will work alongside the New Mexico State Library, Central New Mexico Community College, University of New Mexico Cariño Toy Lending Library, New Mexico PBS, and Bernalillo County Early Childhood Accountability Partnership to create STEM Charging Stations for Young Children and Families. The project will target the achievement gap between low-income children and their economically advantaged peers. Work will be framed around parent and caregiver engagement in early STEM learning (birth to age four) at venues already serving low-income families. Lincoln Community Foundation, NE The foundation will partner with the Lincoln Children's Museum, Lincoln City Libraries, Midwestern African Museum of Art, Nebraska History Museum, and University of Nebraska State Museum on the Lincoln Reads Aloud Program. The project will align existing successful reading efforts to expand their impact. Reading aloud will be promoted to Lincoln's entire population, with intensive focus on a neighborhood of extreme poverty. Museums and libraries will be equipped for reading-oriented complements to exhibits and events. Triton College, River Grove, IL Oak Park Public Library and Equity Team will partner with the college to implement a program to increase the college and career readiness of at-risk youth with coaching, advocacy, and academic support. Mentoring will be offered to 100 families with high-school students and another 100 with kids in middle school. The project, based on the Dual-Capacity Building Framework, will enhance educational outcomes and equity. The winning institutions are matching their awards with non-federal funds, as a 1:1 cost share was a requirement of the grant. The grant period of performance is two years. IMLS received applications from 57 organizations requesting a total of $6,678,255.
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