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Libraries awarded $575,000 leadership grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services

January 11, 2012
Lynne M. Thomas and Drew VandeCreek

Lynne M. Thomas and Drew VandeCreek

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded Northern Illinois University Libraries with a National Leadership Grant of $575,000 to investigate affordable digital preservation solutions for small and medium-sized college and university libraries.

Because technology changes so rapidly, libraries nationwide are becoming increasingly concerned about the preservation of their digital materials, including images, videos, audio files and textual documents.

“This grant will give us an opportunity to find ways to make digital preservation affordable, sustainable and scalable,” says Lynne M. Thomas, curator of Rare Books and Special Collections for NIU Libraries.

She and Drew VandeCreek, director of digital initiatives, head the project for NIU.

“Digital preservation aims to ensure long-term access to everything from photographs taken at a university sporting event to university meeting minutes to the research work of faculty members,” Thomas says. “We need to make sure we can access those materials 50 years from now. Right now, there’s no way to guarantee that— especially for smaller libraries.”

University Libraries is partnering on the grant project with Chicago State, Illinois State, Illinois Wesleyan and Western Illinois universities. The institutions will simultaneously test multiple collaborative digital preservation solutions and evaluate the suitability of each option.

The project also will produce a report on viable options, a potential business model for sustaining such operations and a digital preservation planning toolkit tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized universities.

“This is an exciting endeavor. This grant is important to the small and medium-sized college and university libraries that do not necessarily possess the resources to be able to create local digital preservation solutions or to purchase any turnkey product,” University Libraries Dean Patrick Dawson says.  “Hopefully the end product will include viable, sustainable solutions that will be able to be adopted and employed.”

Logo of the Institute of Museum and Library ServicesThe largest museum and library joint grant program administered by IMLS, National Leadership Grants support projects that will advance the ability of museums and libraries to preserve culture, heritage and knowledge while enhancing learning.

This past year, IMLS received 210 applications and distributed 48 National Leadership Grants for collaborative planning. Recipients provide some matching funds.

“We believe that each of these grants will advance the museum, library and archive professions through new research and the creation and dissemination of innovative tools, models and activities that can be shared broadly,” IMLS Director Susan Hildreth says.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to support professional development, enhance learning and innovation and sustain heritage, culture and knowledge.