Editor’s Note: This spring, IMLS is hosting a series of three strategic priority meetings, each focused on a different priority. The sessions will help inform future strategies, particularly for the agency’s National Leadership Grant program. The first, held at the New York Public Library on April 29, examined national digital initiatives.
By Maura Marx
Deputy Director for Museum Services, IMLS
On April 29th, we invited a group of expert colleagues from all types of libraries along with other funders to come together at the New York Public Library to discuss shared priorities, specifically regarding the national digital platform – the infrastructure, services, tools, and people who together deliver content to people everywhere. It was quite a fantastic group, with representatives from the American Library Association; the Association of Research Libraries, the Public Library Association, the Coalition for Networked Information; the Digital Library Federation; the Library of Congress; the National Archives and Records Administration; the National Endowment for the Humanities; and the Sloan, Mellon, and Gates Foundations participating. Over 900 people tuned in to the live webcast and contributed to the nationwide conversation on the national digital platform.
There were several important takeaways for us at IMLS, some of which we heard for the first time.
For starters, I heard several people express in different ways a central idea: that funders (practitioners, too) should recognize that we stand atop about 20 years of experimentation and innovation in digital library initiatives, and that it’s about time we decide which results are the most viable and promising and work in a focused way on improving and connecting those pieces.
One participant called it an “all roads lead to DPLA” strategy, in which funders would no longer invest in siloed projects but would require that applicants demonstrate how they fit with pieces of a national infrastructure such as the Digital Public Library of America, the Hathi Trust, or the Digital Preservation Network. This would require new ways of working for us, and we’re interested in working together to develop this idea.
We at IMLS really like the idea of working with other funders. Our recent grants to support DPLA Hubs in coordination with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Knight Foundation, and to support SHARE with the Sloan Foundation are both evidence of that. The idea of a “funders’ fund” to support priorities, including perhaps competitions, for the national digital platform would be a bigger and better step.
If you are interested, please take a moment to look at the convening video or notes. We’re still processing much of what we heard. We’re thinking about how it will impact the changes we are planning to make to the National Leadership Grants program. (More on that soon.) Mostly we’re thinking about how to support our community in working more closely together, and we welcome your continued helpful input on that front!