IMLS and Open Government Initiatives

Maura MarxBy Maura Marx
Acting Director, IMLS

Transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government. We consider these principles critical to the mission of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. And we have built a strong foundation of openness policies and practices that guide our activities and are part of President Obama’s government-wide initiative to promote openness in the work of federal agencies. I am excited to tell you about a number of efforts to unlock the power of government data to spur innovation and improve the quality of our services.

Our IMLS Open Government Plan, which was developed after consultation with agency stakeholders, highlights the agency’s efforts toward greater transparency. Accomplishments include completion of an agency-wide inventory of data holdings, increasing the number of publicly available datasets, and updating grant policies to continue to ensure that data from federally funded research is made publicly available.

Museum Universe Data File Q3 2014 Map: This dataset provides a list of known museums and related organizations in the United States maintained by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Museum Universe Data File Q3 2014 Map: This dataset provides a list of known museums and related organizations in the United States maintained by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The IMLS Digital Government Strategy aims to enable access to high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device. Our developer page will provide information about our data and systems and promote the use of application programming interfaces (APIs).

Agency staff members have participated in several hackathons and will participate in the upcoming International Open Data Day at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. At these events, we receive feedback about our datasets and highlight the importance of public engagement, including working with the developer community.

It’s a particular point of pride to share our latest accomplishment, the launch of the data catalog site ( This resource puts IMLS data—comprising agency data such as grants administration and data about museums, libraries, and related organizations—at the fingertips of researchers, developers, and interested members of the public who want to dig deeper.

Homepage of

The data catalog site can be used to:

  • search, filter, and export datasets,
  • create and share visualizations such as maps, charts and graphs without the need for additional software,
  • develop reports and visualizations for program planning and evaluation,
  • present data analysis in interactive web-based reports, and
  • fuel apps and other data mash-ups generated through APIs.

We are hosting an Open Data Open House to engage a small group of researchers and digital library, museum, and government professionals with the new tool. They have been invited to demonstrate its features, explore IMLS data sets, and brainstorm ideas for projects using the data.

Your input is welcome. Follow our Facebook page and engage in the discussion on Twitter using #IMLSdata. Also, you can subscribe to our UpNext blog posts to hear from guest writers about new ways to use IMLS data.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Research | Leave a comment

Maker Movement Takes Over Pittsburgh

By Peter Wardrip, Learning Scientist and
Lisa Brahms, Director of Learning and Research
Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

On January 27th and 28th, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and IMLS co-hosted a convening of library and museum professionals from across the country. Despite the fact that a snowstorm kept seven of our participants out of the Pittsburgh area, 74 participants representing libraries and museums from 26 states and the District of Columbia attended the two-day meeting.

The purpose of the convening was to move forward an initiative between the museum and IMLS to identify key elements of library and museum makerspaces that support learning. Ultimately, the outcome of this project will be a framework to guide learning in these spaces.

People sitting at a table engaged in a discussion

Participants reflected on the goals of their makerspaces and maker programs and how facilitation and materials supported those goals.

Leading up to the meeting, my colleague Lisa Brahms and I developed a draft framework for supporting learning in library and museum makerspaces. From September of 2014 through December, we visited over 30 library and museum makerspaces across the country, interviewed key staff members at these spaces, and distilled the key ingredients that we heard and observed across these spaces. In general terms, the framework is built around the ideas of Purpose, People, and Pieces and Parts. These three categories reflected the importance of identifying the “why” of making in one’s space, taking into account the significant role people play in managing and facilitating maker experiences, and ensuring that the tools and materials—the pieces and parts—align with the goals of the makerspace, the mission of the organization, and the capacity of the people.

Man holding stick participating in an activity.

Library and museum maker professionals engaged in making activities, like this design challenge to rescue space cargo.

Throughout the convening, we designed opportunities for the participants to challenge the relevance of these categories as well as better understand the variation that exists within each category. With the help of our project thought partners from the Exploratorium, Maker Education Initiative, North Carolina State University, and the Chicago Public Library, as well as the teaching artists from the museum’s MAKESHOP, we engaged participants in different making activities in order to reflect on both how those activities and their relationship to the framework elements listed above, aligned or not with the activities in their own space, as well as the learning that those experiences elicited.

For the next steps in the project, we will refine the framework, craft a publication to explain and illustrate the framework, and develop a suite of tools to assist practitioners in using the framework. These tools will help users design and implement a new makerspace or program, refine an existing one, and evaluate and assess them. We are using the website to document this work and share resources.

People sitting at a table engaged in a discussion

Participants discussed learning practices in making and how we can support them.

We realize that many more maker educators in museums and libraries are doing great work. As this work develops, we encourage you to go to our web site, and add comments or reactions to this work. A special byproduct of this meeting was the outstanding new interactions it fostered between museum and library professionals. As we further develop this framework, we hope to continue this cross institutional sharing. We have so much to learn from each other.

Posted in Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment

StoryCorps Interview: Chicago Public Library

Each year, select museums and libraries with outstanding records of community service receive the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries. IMLS signed a cooperative agreement with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. Beginning with the 2009 awardees, StoryCorps began collecting personal stories demonstrating the ongoing impact of these award-winning institutions.

2014 National Medal Winner Chicago Public Library

Marcia Trawinski and Dottie Gibson

Marcia Trawinski and Dottie Gibson

“It was a very solitary arrangement, it was me and the post office….”

Marcia Trawinski, long-time member of the Chicago Public Library, talks to her friend Dottie Gibson about how adaptive services for the visually impaired have improved her relationship with books and the library.

Listen to their story here:

Download Transcript

Posted in Accessibility, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), National Medal for Museum and Library Service, StoryCorps | Leave a comment