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Training our Focus

March 18, 2015

By Maura Marx
Acting Director, IMLS

IMLS takes a keen interest in the many ways museums and libraries adapt to serve the changing needs of their communities. In the same way, we at IMLS need to recognize the shifting realities of our own museum and library stakeholders. Our IMLS Focus initiative, begun last year with a series of three convenings, successfully helped us to garner public participation and informed our strategic priorities for the year. We’re excited about a reprisal of these efforts again this year.

Last year’s three spring Focus convenings were centered on timely issues in the library field (National Digital Platform, Learning Spaces, and STEM) and aimed to convey the agency’s goals and gather feedback around those goals. About 150 people participated in person and 1,500 participated via livestream in these invitational events, offering us a wonderful opportunity to interact with and listen to leaders in the field. We had extremely helpful conversations about our impact on practice and the field in general. As a result, our 2015 grant guidelines reflected important new directions in the field.

Andrea Saenz (Chicago Public Library), Erica Compton (Idaho Commission for Libraries), and Susan Nutter (NC State University Libraries) helped set the stage for the Learning Spaces meeting in May 2014.

I am pleased to share the news that the Office of Library Services will hold another round of spring invitational meetings under the banner of IMLS Focus. Once again, these convenings will help us shine a light on our strategic priority areas for libraries and archives.

The first convening, April 28th, at the District of Columbia Public Library in Washington, D.C., will once again address the National Digital Platform, which is the combination of software applications, social and technical infrastructure, and staff expertise that provide content and services to all users in the United States. The meeting will aim to discuss and identify areas that may be important to libraries for funding, future research, and other tangible outcomes.

The second convening, May 14th, at the Kansas City Public Library in Kansas City, Missouri, will focus on learning in libraries, both for library users and the profession as a whole. It will extend last year’s conversations around learning spaces and STEM and build upon strategic thinking on this topic going forward.

The third convening, June 2nd, at the Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles, California, will showcase libraries’ work to engage with their communities through the lens of partnerships and serving diverse needs. It will broaden the IMLS Focus conversation beyond our priorities and examine the characteristics of successful projects.

The three 2014 IMLS Focus meetings brought together approximately 150 in-person participants and 1,500 virtual participants.

I hope many of you will participate in these national meetings through the live webcasts and the #IMLSfocus Twitter conversation. We’ll be sharing more details as the dates grow closer.

Finally, our overall shift in focus is not just limited to library programs. IMLS Focus will also become the name of this year’s annual conference, which will highlight IMLS priorities, showcase our grantees’ work, and explore the latest thinking in museums and libraries. This conference will replace IMLS WebWise, which began 15 years ago to explore the ways museums and libraries were expanding into digital services. It will bring together grantees, potential applicants, and professionals working in museums, libraries, archives, and cultural heritage organizations. Please mark your calendar for the inaugural IMLS Focus Conference, which is anticipated to take place November 16-17 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and look for registration details this summer.

We look forward to these upcoming conversations and your input!

CORRECTION: The version of the Director’s Message issued on 3/18/2015 incorrectly noted Kansas City, Kansas, as the site of the second Focus convening. This version includes the correct location of Kansas City, Missouri.