By Trevor Owens, Senior Program Officer
and Emily Reynolds, Program Officer
IMLS Office of Library Services
The Office of Library Services recently published information on our FY 2017 application guidelines for both the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) and the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program (NLG). This is part of a series of posts drawing attention to key points in the Notices of Funding Opportunity guidelines for those programs, focusing on elements of the programs that have been refined or changed from previous years.
Please be sure to review the first post in this series as it provides a general overview of the various category options for projects proposed in both the NLG and LB21 programs. Please refer to the official guidelines for full details including application instructions and review criteria. If you are considering putting a proposal together, be sure to review these tips for developing a two-page preliminary proposal.
An Update on the National Digital Platform Project Category
Over the last three years, IMLS has begun to cultivate a portfolio of projects supporting a national digital platform for libraries, archives, and museums. For background on this area, see the report from last year’s IMLS Focus convening on the National Digital Platform and a recent series of posts on grants focused on working with born digital content, linked data, diversity and inclusion, and education and training.
This year, the National Digital Platform project category in the NLG program is focused explicitly on supporting projects that create, develop, and expand the open source software applications used by libraries and archives to provide digital content and services to all users in the United States. In the LB21 program, the National Digital Platform project category will support projects that will increase library professionals’ capacity to create, develop, and use the open source software applications used by libraries and archives to provide digital content and services to all users in the United States.
In many ways, this work is very similar to previously-funded National Digital Platform projects. However, with the introduction of the new Curating Collections project category, the scope of the National Digital Platform category has narrowed a bit to focus primarily on software and tools. Projects intended to have a significant national impact on shared services for the preservation and management of digital library collections and content across the country should be submitted as Curating Collections projects, rather than National Digital Platform. Stay tuned for a post with more details about the Curating Collections category.
Both guidelines (LB21 and NLG) identify the characteristics of successful proposals in these programs. These characteristics include collaborative approaches, potential for national or broad impact, demonstrating appropriate expertise, and focusing on issues of current or timely significance to the fields of library or archival practice.
Despite these similarities, there is a central and fundamental difference between the primary purposes of the two programs. If the primary purpose of your project is education and training for library professionals, library students, or recruiting future professionals to develop a diverse workforce in library and information science, then your project is likely a better fit for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. If the focus of your project is to make a national impact on high-priority gaps facing libraries and archives through the development of tools, infrastructure, or otherwise, then you should likely apply to the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program.
National Digital Platform Projects in National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program
Building on the success of existing projects in this portfolio, this year the National Digital Platform category is specifically focused on the open source software applications used by libraries and archives to provide digital content and services to all users in the United States. As stated in the guidelines these projects may involve:
- Developing or improving open source digital library tools that build on existing work, are grounded in the needs of a wide range of libraries and archives, and involve a range of partners who will be involved in iterative testing and use case development. This work might include improving interoperability, usability, or user community involvement in these tools.
- Addressing intersections between digital issues facing libraries and cutting edge work in other fields to yield broadly applicable modeling or analytic methods and tools. For example, projects might address digital humanities, digital sciences, civic data initiatives, open educational resources or computational analysis of collections. Projects should be collaborative in nature and draw from expertise in multiple domains and sectors.
- Researching the need for and impact of investments in national digital library infrastructure and services. This could involve the development of approaches to measuring and assessing the economic, educational, scholarly, scientific, social, or cultural value and impact of digital collections. It could also involve documenting opportunities for libraries to meet their users’ demand for digital content areas such as ebooks and might explore growth models, user adoption and retention, and mechanisms for sustainability for such infrastructure and services.
National Digital Platform Projects in the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
In the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program, the National Digital Platform project category focuses on supporting projects that will increase librarians’ and library professionals’ capacity to create, preserve, manage, and provide access to digital library collections across the country. As stated in the NOFO, these projects may involve:
- Planning new training programs for librarians or library students related to the development, implementation, or use of digital library tools.
- Supporting formal or informal educational programs to increase librarians’ capacity related to the development, implementation, or use of digital library tools including but not limited to research and public access contexts. These projects should demonstrate that they build on existing work, are grounded in the needs of a wide range of libraries and archives, and that they involve a range of partners.
- Assessing the needs for and impact of investments in education and training for open source digital library tools. For example, proposed projects may examine librarians’ education and training needs for coding or other skills, or employers’ desired competencies for digital library staff.
For more information, visit our website at https://www.imls.gov/ or contact one of our program specialists.