Celebrating the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

Two blog posts came to me this week that inspired me to talk a little bit about IMLS and the enormous impact a small federal agency with limited funds can have on Oregon libraries and Oregonians.

Since the 1950’s states have received federal funds to improve library services. This began as the Library Services Act, morphed into the Library Services and Construction Act and transformed in 1996 to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The Oregon State Library receives a hair over $2 million per year for projects that meet the purposes of the Act and the goals in the our 2013-2017 LSTA Five Year Plan. We provide a number of statewide services, databases, virtual reference, and consulting. We also provide competitive grants to libraries and other organizations around the state.

The two blog posts both deal with LSTA. One provides a look at how one library is using LSTA funding to work with their community to maximize the statewide resources, also funded with LSTA. The second post is the farewell from the outgoing director of IMLS, Susan Hildreth. Both of these were posted on libs-or this week but I think we all know that people have to hear something seven (or however many) times. I won’t revisit this five more times, don’t worry. If you haven’t taken a look at these blog posts, please do.

1. Kate Dwyer at Josephine Community Libraries and their LSTA project are featured on the Gale Cengage Blog. Kate describes it this way: Among other things, my project introduces library online databases to students, policy makers, in-library patrons and lots of others. It’s easy to get people excited about our databases when the content they are finding is relevant to their lives. I walk them through live searches on topics they care about. I do this not just at the library, but in offices, hospitals, schools, club meetings, etc.  Getting in the door is the hard part: people think they already know all about libraries. But once I’m there, they are amazed. Then I get them to give me short testimonials so that other groups will say yes, too.

2. Every four years the president appoints a new director of IMLS. The position alternates between a museum professional and a library professional. Susan Hildreth had been the director since 2011 and is stepping down this month. We don’t know who (or when) a new director will be appointed. Susan was the director of the Seattle Public Library, the San Francisco Public Library and State Librarian of California, in addition to other positions, I think mostly in California’s bay area.

Susan has posted a farewell message to the IMLS blog and I would encourage you to take a look at the work and accomplishments of IMLS under her leadership. She has been a force of nature for libraries and museums in Washington DC. I think I am most impressed by the partnerships she has forged with other federal agencies that pave the way for state libraries to partner at the state level. I have been honored to work with Susan for the past several years and I thank her for everything she has done (and I’m guessing will continue to do) for libraries in the United States.

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