September 24, 2020

American Libraries and Museums Awarded $13.8 Million in IMLS CARES Act Grants
Funds to Support Pandemic Response Work in Communities Across the Nation

Reading Public Library patrons seated at desk with laptop and science project.

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services today announced $13,800,000 in IMLS CARES Act Grants to support the role of museums and libraries in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. The funded projects were selected from 1,701 applications requesting $409,251,399, and institutions receiving awards are matching them with $1,753,470 in non-federal funds.

“We’ve seen unprecedented need expressed by museums and libraries on behalf of their organizations and communities, and many are on the brink—financially, emotionally, and otherwise,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “While the pandemic’s widespread impact has changed how museums and libraries engage with their communities, it has not stopped them from providing information, education, support, entertainment, and other incredible resources. We deeply appreciate the work that museums and libraries are doing as they continue their missions in the face of hardship. We urge other funders, local governments, and foundations to partner with their communities to fund more of this critical work and explore additional ways to stabilize these essential organizations now and for the future.”

"The overwhelming response to the IMLS CARES Act funding opportunity is indicative of the unparalleled need the pandemic has created and the library and information science community's commitment to meeting as many of those needs as possible,” said Cyndee Landrum, Deputy Director of Library Services. “The ingenuity, creativity, and care that shaped these applications are impressive, especially from so many first-time applicants. I wish that we could fund more of these projects."

“We are thankful to all the applicants for the time and effort they put towards thoughtful proposals, prepared during these very difficult times,” said Paula Gangopadhyay, Deputy Director of Museum Services. “The funds we were able to award will enable museums to have direct impact, from creating and expanding online learning resources, establishing digital networks, digitizing collections, retraining staff, developing reopening plans, and more—this work matters. We encourage all applicants who did not receive funding through this particular opportunity to apply for the open FY 2021 museum services grants.”

The grants will support 68 museum and library services projects that will take place over the next two years, supporting communities across the nation. Examples include:

  • In response to high unemployment brought on by COVID-19, the Evanston Public Library’s “Ready to Work: Bridging the Digital Divide for Tomorrow’s Workforce” program will provide access to technology and resources that help patrons build the necessary skills to be job ready. The library will provide Ready-to-Work Starter Kits that will help close the digital divide, basic computer skill building through classroom courses and one-on-one sessions with Tech Tutors, skill building online tools that individuals are not able to afford themselves, and resource information to promote digital literacy.

  • The Museum Association of New York will support 100 museums in high needs locations in the state to help them respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by giving staff the tools and training to reach their communities virtually. The project will provide partners with hardware, software, and training to develop virtual programs focused on stories from their collections revealing cultural and racial diversity within their communities. Each museum will partner with a local library to develop, implement, assess, and revise at least two new programs, resulting in access to 200 new virtual programs for museums.

  • The Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon will develop “take and make” activity kits designed for youth ages 6–12 who are disproportionately affected by mandated online learning in response to COVID-19. The kits will include a graphic story poster along with activities, materials, and instructions. Museum staff will assemble a total of 10,000 kits, which will be distributed throughout the region by a robust group of community partners.

  • The University of Wyoming’s National History Day engages more than 500,000 middle and high school students annually in sourcing, critical thinking, problem-solving, oral, written, analytical, and presentation skills. Due to the pandemic, students seeking to access primary sources for research have had to turn to online resources. The American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming will increase access to its archives through strategic digitization, a new website that will display these digitized materials, and a marketing campaign to spread awareness of the website to History Day participants in all 50 states.

  • The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library sought a tangible solution for the nearly 41 percent of households in the area who lack internet access for telehealth, online schooling, job searching and more. In partnership with the Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance and inspired by the BKYLNConnect Playbook, the library will pilot its Neighborhood W.I.S.P. (Wireless Internet Service Provider) Network to increase internet access in the county’s West Boulevard corridor. In addition to receiving free internet with their library card, individuals will receive digital literacy training, and some may train as support technicians.

  • Explora Science Center & Children’s Museum’s “Resilience in the Face of Decay” project is a three-part reopening plan, based on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Explora will train its staff on racial equity and cultural competency, asset-based community development, and COVID-19 safe practices in response to community requests for health-related content. The museum will partner with the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, Project ECHO, Navajo Transitional Energy Company, Office of Diné Youth, and others to expand access to STEM-H learning and address the opportunity gap between Native children and their more advantaged peers—a gap that has widened during the pandemic.

  • The Intrepid Museum will develop and deliver virtual education programs to approximately 12,000 New York residents over two years. The museum will produce educator-ready resource sets for virtual teaching on 20 distinct multidisciplinary topics. Each set will include an interactive lesson plan, links to EdTech resources, and embedded formative assessment tools. The museum will share project materials with local and state library systems to address capacity challenges that some library systems are experiencing in their efforts to serve their audiences in this transitional time.

  • The Howard University Gallery of Art will substantially expand its virtual services by making works in its collection accessible for viewing or study whether on exhibit or in storage. The gallery will provide comprehensive online research accessibility through a new collections database, create digital images of its collections, and produce an interactive 3-D virtual museum space. New educational programming will also be developed to include virtual exhibitions, artists talks, and curatorial lectures.

IMLS CARES Act Grants for Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum and Library Services were announced separately in August.

For more information about IMLS CARES Act funds distributed directly to State Library Administrative Agencies that may still be available, please visit each SLAA’s page. For a listing of other open IMLS grant opportunities, please visit the IMLS website. For more updates, subscribe to email notifications or visit

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo courtesy of the Reading Public Library.

IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries