Libraries and museums are essential contributors to Americans' lives
In the President’s proposed FY 2018 budget (p. 5), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is one of eighteen independent agencies that would be completely eliminated. In a statement from the Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Dr. Katheryn K. Matthew describes the value and impact that funding from the IMLS has on communities:
“The institutions we serve provide vital resources that contribute significantly to Americans’ economic development, education, health, and well-being… our grants and programs support libraries and museums as essential contributors to improving Americans’ quality of life.”
A long list of professional organizations have spoken out against the proposed cuts to the NEA, NEH, and IMLS; and many of these organizations and individuals are urging people to contact their representatives in order to demonstrate the impact that the programs funded by these agencies have made on our lives, society, and cultural existence.1
What impact does the IMLS have on people, who are not librarians, curators, archivists, etc., and their communities across the United States? The IMLS was founded 20 years ago and its primary mission is to provide federal support to approximately 120,000 libraries and 30,000 museums in the United States and its territories. IMLS grants range from small amounts of $715 that funded for example, the OPUS Archives and Research Center in their efforts to preserve and store 16mm film reels from their Joseph Campbell Collection, to large, institution building grants of $10,000,000 that funded the National Constitution Center (FY 1999), whose mission is to “illuminate constitutional ideals and inspire active citizenship.” The Center was established in 1988 when President Ronald Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988 in order to create a center that “shall disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a nonpartisan basis in order to increase awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.”
Of the 13,594 IMLS grants awarded between FY 1996 and 2014 – 4,046 were awarded for the Native American Library Services, Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services or Native Hawaiian Library Services programs, which serve communities who are federally recognized as an “Indian tribe” or “Native Hawaiian” for the latter. The Native American Library Services and Native Hawaiian Library Services programs provide critical funding for library staff to continue their education and training and participate in professional development. The Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services program enables organizations to develop public programming and educational services, as well as provide ongoing professional development for their staff.
Figure 1. IMLS grant funding under the Native American Library Services program in Alaska.
In remote areas of the United States, such as Alaska, IMLS grants for programs and existing library operations and core services can be an essential source of funding. States, such as Ohio, also rely heavily on funding from the IMLS for programs and services, such as the Ohio Talking Book program for the blind and physically disabled population, which without IMLS funding would be difficult to support or could even be forced to end.
Additional information about programs and services that have received IMLS grants can be searched and viewed in the IMLS database. Open data about IMLS grant recipients is also available on data.gov. I used this source to pull data and visualize it using Tableau Public. Filters enable you to select and view data on the map based on values such as fiscal year, total amount awarded, state (or territory), institution, organization type, program, and project type. The organization type is color coded and the size of the points correlates to the amount awarded to a specific project. The goal of this visualization is to show that IMLS grants impact many communities across the United States and its Territories and to encourage people to learn more about the programs and services in their towns and cities funded through IMLS, which they might not realize they benefit from in some way.
Open interactive map by visiting this page.
1. In “Trump’s Budget Proposal Eliminates Funding For IMLS, NEA, NEH, CPB, and More,” INFOdocket, Library Journal. (March 16, 2017), Gary Price compiled and published excerpts and a running list of statements from professional organizations in response to the President’s proposal to eliminate funding for these agencies. There are other statements that didn’t make it into the list, for example, the Music Library Association Statement on Proposed Cuts to Arts and Humanities. (March 21, 2017).↩