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Building the Knowledge Base about Learning in Libraries: A Look at 3 NLG-L Projects

June 30, 2016

By Dr. Sandra Toro

IMLS Senior Program Officer

This spring, IMLS announced the recipients of National Leadership Grants for Libraries (NLG-L) awards from our fall 2015 application deadline. As noted in a recent blog post, applicants to the Learning in Libraries category were asked to align project activities with recommendations from a 2015 IMLS Focus Convening. One recommendation, pursuing research that connects with library practice, was addressed by three of the newly awarded NLG-L projects.

Learning in Libraries projects investigate all types of learning and inquiry, including participatory and hands-on learning, in libraries. The three learning research projects address important questions for libraries, archives, and the field of information science by exploring unstudied yet persistent problems of practice; patron behavior and how librarians can enhance STEM learning; and the kinds of support librarians need to help refugees and asylum seekers.

The Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries project, from the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at UC Irvine, focuses on two timely research questions. The first is: What are appropriate learning outcomes of connected learning programs in libraries, and how can we measure them? The second question is: What evaluation tools and practices can best support the development and improvement of connected learning spaces and programs in libraries? Unlike a traditional research study, this project involves bringing researchers and practitioners together as a collaborative team to develop and pilot evaluation tools. The team will work collaboratively to provide the field with case studies of participatory evaluation, so both researchers and practitioners can build knowledge of connected learning outcomes and effective evaluation approaches for a variety of library settings.

The Online Q&A in STEM Education: Curating the Wisdom of the Crowd project, from Rutgers University and the University of Hawaii, features three key research questions. These are: How can online Q&A activities be explained and investigated as information-seeking behavior?; What are appropriate quality metrics for online Q&A content, specifically related to STEM fields?; and How would the addition of online Q&A content and quality assessment help meet the rigorous requirements of STEM education? In addition to producing data and findings in a traditional sense via a live user study and the development and application of a statistical model, the researchers will create a content assessment system for STEM students, educators, and the public; a list of guidelines for supporting and enhancing integration of social and crowdsourced information seeking activities in STEM education; and a set of instruments and measures for studying, evaluating, and integrating Q&A content into STEM education, linked with existing Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) information literacy standards.

The creation of Project Welcome, directed by Clara M. Chu and Susan Schnuer of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs at the University of Illinois Library, was prompted by the question, What can librarians in the United States (U.S.), with our own experiences with migrants, learn from our European and other international colleagues with their current and distinct experiences with forced migration? To answer this question and address a dearth of research, training materials, and other library resources, the project team is bringing together U.S. librarians, refugee and asylum seeking community members and organizations, and international colleagues. Through virtual and face-to-face interactions and meetings, they will assess the information needs and gaps of refugees and asylum seekers. Together, the group will develop recommendations and an action agenda on information resources, services, training and/or research for their resettlement and integration.

To learn more about these projects, including how the project directors and their teams will collect and analyze data and share their findings, click on the links below to access the preliminary proposals, full proposal narrative, schedules of completion, and digital stewardship forms.

Be on the lookout for an upcoming blog post about projects funded through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program for research about education and training for information professionals, including early career research projects for a tenure track faculty members.


The Regents of the University of California - Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries (CCLL)


IMLS Funds: $772,864.00

Cost Share: $95,308.00

The Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries (CCLL) project is a research and practice collaboration between the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the YOUMedia Community of Practice, and the Connected Learning Research Network (CLRN). It is focused on identifying persistent problems of practice around connected learning programs and ways of addressing those problems. The project includes an examination of existing literature; the development of measures; piloting and testing of evaluation plans with embedded measures; the establishment of benchmarks to determine spread and uptake of resources; and the surveying of practitioners to contribute to the understanding of connected learning efforts in libraries. The CCLL team will provide librarians with evaluation instruments, tools, and plans to understand the effectiveness of connected learning programs to help librarians better assess learning outcomes and boost their ability to use evaluation data to improve programs.

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Online Q&A in STEM Education: Curating the Wisdom of the Crowd


IMLS Funds: $490,973.00

Cost Share: $237,923.00

The Rutgers University Department of Library and Information Science (LIS) at the School of Communication and Information (SC&I) in partnership with the University of Hawaii Department of Information and Computer Sciences will address the growing need for investigating people's online question-and-answer (Q&A) behavior and quality assessment applied by experts to benefit learning experiences of students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. The project will integrate crowdsourced information and the wisdom of librarians and other information professionals to enhance the experience of STEM learners. The project includes conducting three user studies featuring data collection and interviews with online Q&A users; collection of objective assessments to build statistical models and tools; and a lab study and classroom study to evaluate the efficacy of tools and services.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois -



The Mortenson Center for International Programs at the University of Illinois and the American Library Association will partner to develop recommendations and an action agenda for libraries on information resources, services, training, and research needed to support the resettlement and integration of refugees and asylum seekers in the United States. Project Welcome planning grant activities include consultation with librarians and refugee organizations to produce a thought paper; a two-day meeting to explore solutions; a project website with refugee-related resources and project activities; and a report with recommendations. Project Welcome will benefit public libraries and refugee organizations by strengthening the collective impact of libraries and other community anchors to support resettlement and integration.

Sandra Toro, Ph.D. is a Senior Program Officer in the Office of Library Services. She may be contacted at

National Leadership Grants for Libraries