The National Medal for Museum and Library Service is the nation’s highest honor for institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. Since 1994, IMLS has presented the award to institutions that demonstrate extraordinary and innovative approaches to community service.
Submissions due Monday, November 2, 2020 by 11:59 pm ET.
New this year! View the FY 2021 National Medal Nominee Information Session to learn more about the nomination process, eligibility criteria, and tips for completing the application.
The National Medals program recognizes outstanding libraries and museums of all types and sizes that deeply impact their communities by:
fostering a lifelong passion for learning for all people, nourishing curiosity and imagination from early childhood through adulthood, for people of all abilities and needs;
providing access to information through advancing digital capacity, focusing on digital inclusion and access to digital and informational resources, including e-books and materials to help address workforce development and public health;
transforming the lives of community members by being trusted community spaces for convening, connection, and conversation; enlightenment and shared thoughts and opinions; and preserving natural and cultural heritage and community memory;
continuing to engage their communities during the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and enhanced focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, through providing information, programming, and services virtually, or taking innovative and imaginative steps toward continuing services and reopening their physical spaces.
How are the recipients of the National Medal selected?
The Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with the advice of the National Museum and Library Services Board, selects the recipients of the National Medals. In addition to the Medal, IMLS may provide a monetary award.
How many finalists and Medalists will be selected?
Fifteen libraries and fifteen museums will be selected as finalists, for a total of thirty. From these finalists, three museums and three libraries will then be selected to receive National Medals.
When are the recipients of the National Medal notified?
All National Medalist nominees will be notified of their status in the spring of 2021.
Who is eligible for a National Medal?
Aquariums, Arboretums/Botanical Gardens, Art Museums, Children’s/Youth Museums, General Museums, Historic Houses/Sites, History Museums, Natural History/Anthropology Museums, Nature Centers, Planetariums, Science/Technology Museums, Specialized Museums, and Zoos may be nominated for the National Medal for Museum Service if they are either a unit of State or local government or a private nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code;
are located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau; and
qualify as a museum that, using a professional staff, is organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes; owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; cares for these objects; and exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis through facilities that it owns or operates.
A public or private nonprofit agency that is responsible for the operation of a museum may be nominated if it manages a museum.
Academic and Research Libraries/Archives, Digital Libraries, Library Associations, Library Consortia, Public Libraries, Research Libraries/Archives that make information available to the public and that are not an integral part of an institution of higher learning, Public School Libraries, Tribal Libraries, and Private or Special Libraries that are considered libraries as determined by the State in which they are located, may be nominated for the National Medal for Library Service. They should also be either a unit of State or local government or be a private nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code; and
located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.
Previous library or museum medal recipients may be nominated again after ten years.
Libraries or museums that employ or are affiliated with a current member of the National Museum and Library Services Board (NMLSB) are not eligible for a National Medal, by resolution of the NMLSB.
Who may nominate a library or museum for the National Medal?
Anyone, including the organization’s employees, board members, members of its community, and elected officials, may nominate a museum or library for this honor.
What steps should nominators take?
If someone outside the organization wants to make a nomination, they should notify the museum or library directly and ask them to complete and submit the Nomination Form.
- If an organization self-nominates, it needs to submit the Nomination Form.
- Congressional staff should contact IMLS for instructions on nominating organizations in their districts.
All nomination materials must be submitted by 11:59 pm EST on Monday, November 2, 2020.
What does the organization being nominated need to do?
An organization that is nominated either by an outside nominator or by self-nomination must complete the Nomination Form to be considered.
What is the deadline for submitting the Nomination Form?
The Nomination Form must be completed by 11:59 pm EST on Monday, November 2, 2020, at the web form linked here: https://www.imls.gov/eform/submit/2021-nomination-form
How do I submit letters of support?
Up to three community letters of support must be uploaded with the Nomination Form by 11:59 pm EST on Monday, November 2, 2020.
Optional letters of support from members of Congress may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please upload or email Congressional letters of support only. Additional materials not specified will not be considered.
Who can I contact if I have questions about the National Medal?
For questions about the nomination process, please contact:
Libraries: Laura McKenzie at email@example.com
Museums: Mark Feitl at firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other questions: email@example.com