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IMLS and Open Government Initiatives

February 19, 2015

By Maura Marx
Acting Director, IMLS

Transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. We consider these principles critical to the mission of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. And we have built a strong foundation of openness policies and practices that guide our activities and are part of President Obama’s government-wide initiative to promote openness in the work of federal agencies. I am excited to tell you about a number of efforts to unlock the power of government data to spur innovation and improve the quality of our services.

Our IMLS Open Government Plan, which was developed after consultation with agency stakeholders, highlights the agency’s efforts toward greater transparency. Accomplishments include completion of an agency-wide inventory of data holdings, increasing the number of publicly available datasets, and updating grant policies to continue to ensure that data from federally funded research is made publicly available.

Museum Universe Data File Q3 2014 Map: This dataset provides a list of known museums and related organizations in the United States maintained by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The IMLS Digital Government Strategy aims to enable access to high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device. Our developer page will provide information about our data and systems and promote the use of application programming interfaces (APIs).

Agency staff members have participated in several hackathons and will participate in the upcoming International Open Data Day at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. At these events, we receive feedback about our datasets and highlight the importance of public engagement, including working with the developer community.

It’s a particular point of pride to share our latest accomplishment, the launch of the data catalog site ( This resource puts IMLS data—comprising agency data such as grants administration and data about museums, libraries, and related organizations—at the fingertips of researchers, developers, and interested members of the public who want to dig deeper.

The data catalog site can be used to:

  • search, filter, and export datasets,
  • create and share visualizations such as maps, charts and graphs without the need for additional software,
  • develop reports and visualizations for program planning and evaluation,
  • present data analysis in interactive web-based reports, and
  • fuel apps and other data mash-ups generated through APIs.

We are hosting an Open Data Open House to engage a small group of researchers and digital library, museum, and government professionals with the new tool. They have been invited to demonstrate its features, explore IMLS data sets, and brainstorm ideas for projects using the data.

Your input is welcome. Follow our Facebook page and engage in the discussion on Twitter using #IMLSdata. Also, you can subscribe to our UpNext blog posts to hear from guest writers about new ways to use IMLS data.