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National Leadership Grants for Libraries (NLG-L)

Grants to USA Nonprofits, Agencies, Libraries, and Schools
to Enhance Practices in the Library and Archive Fields

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Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)

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LOI Date:


Deadline Date:

06/08/18 11:59 PM ET


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Grants to USA and territories nonprofit, governmental, or school-based libraries to address challenges and opportunities to address significant opportunities and challenges in the archival ad library fields. Preliminary proposals are due February 1. Projects should have the potential to further theory and practice.

Successful proposals will generate results such as new tools, research findings, models, services, practices, or alliances that will be widely used, adapted, scaled, or replicated to extend the benefits of federal investment.

Indicators (characteristics) of successful projects in the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program are as follows:

-National impact: Your proposal should address key needs, high priority gaps, and challenges that face libraries or archives. It should expand the boundaries within which libraries and archives operate, show the potential for far-reaching impact, influence theory and practice, and build upon current strategic initiatives and agendas in these fields. This could include far- reaching impact across sizes and complexity of institutions; rural or tribal libraries; and/or networks or consortia of cultural heritage institutions that involve libraries or archives.

-Current significance: Your proposal should appropriately address a critical emergent issue facing libraries and archives. It should be positioned to catalyze efforts across the field based on a clear understanding of existing work, opportunities, and the broader (e.g., economic, demographic, technological, social) environments and influences surrounding and supporting libraries and archives.

-Strategic collaborations: Your proposal should involve key stakeholders and partners necessary to ensure it can succeed and have broad impact from a variety of domains and sectors. These collaborations should establish or build on mutually beneficial national partnerships with allied organizations beyond the library and archives sector with the potential to broadly elevate the role of libraries and archives and expand services to new audiences. Collaborations may strengthen expertise, leverage resources, or enable expanded reach.

-Demonstrated expertise: Your proposal should articulate a thorough understanding of current theory and practice. It should establish how the team possesses the necessary skills, experience, and knowledge to realize significant shifts across the sector. It should also demonstrate a thorough understanding of the realities of implementation and the ultimate user adoption of new services, practices, or perspectives.

IMLS Agency-Level Goals:

The mission of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. This program provides leadership through research, policy development, and grant making.

U.S. museums and libraries are at the forefront in the movement to create a nation of learners. As stewards of cultural and natural heritage with rich, authentic content, libraries and museums provide learning experiences for everyone. In FY2018, each award under this program will support one of the following three goals of the IMLS strategic plan, Creating a Nation of Learners:

-IMLS places the learner at the center and supports engaging experiences in libraries and museums that prepare people to be full participants in their local communities and the global society.

-IMLS promotes museums and libraries as strong community anchors that enhance civic engagement, cultural opportunities, and economic vitality.

-IMLS supports exemplary stewardship of museum and library collections and promotes the use of technology to facilitate discovery of knowledge and cultural heritage.

The goals focus on achieving positive public outcomes for communities and individuals; supporting the unique role of museums and libraries in preserving and providing access to collections and content; and promoting library, museum, and information service policies that ensure access to information for all Americans.

IMLS places importance on diversity and inclusion. This may be reflected in a project in a wide range of ways, including efforts to serve: individuals of diverse geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds; persons with disabilities; persons with limited functional literacy or information skills; individuals having difficulty using a library or museum; underserved urban and rural communities; and children from families with incomes below the poverty level. This may also be reflected in efforts to recruit future professionals in the library or museum fields as well as strategies in building or enhancing access to collections and information.

The funding categories are:
-Sparks Grant
-Planning Grant
-National Forum Grant
-Project Grant
-Research Grant

Your application must designate one of these five funding categories. You may submit as many applications as you wish; however, the same proposal may not be submitted to IMLS under more than one category. Please note: you should submit proposals that focus on education and training of librarians to the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant program.

Sparks Grants support explorations of new approaches or implementations of existing approaches in new contexts.

You may propose activities or approaches that involve risk, but the project results—be they success, failure, or a combination thereof—must offer a potential impact beyond the applicant’s own institution. Outcomes may include new processes, workflows, standards, protocols, tools, or services. Sparks Grants are for periods of one year.

Planning Grants allow project teams to perform preliminary planning activities, such as analyzing needs and feasibility; solidifying partnerships; developing project work plans; or developing prototypes, proofs of concept, and pilot studies. Assessing the outcomes of planning activities should be appropriate to this early stage of work. Applications are expected to provide a basic framework for planning activities that have the potential to lead to a future project. Planning Grants are for periods of one year.

National Forum Grants provide the opportunity to convene qualified groups of experts and key stakeholders, including those from adjacent fields as appropriate, to consider issues or challenges that are important to libraries or archives across the nation. National Forum grant recipients are expected to produce reports for wide dissemination with expert opinions for action or research that address key challenge(s) identified in the proposal. Additional mechanisms for engaging stakeholders and building awareness of the findings are encouraged. National Forum Grants are for periods of one to two years.

Project Grants support fully developed projects for which needs assessments, partnership development, feasibility analyses, prototyping, and other planning activities have been completed. Given the national focus of the program, it is essential that projects have clear potential for significant national impact, involve partners from multiple parts of the country, and realistically address growth and sustainability. Projects may scale or further evolve an earlier phase of work, but should not simply sustain an existing project. Project Grants are for periods of one to three years.

Research Grants involve the investigation of key questions important to library or archival practice. Basic and applied research projects should build upon prior empirical or theoretical work in libraries and archives or other fields, such as anthropology, learning sciences, sociology, etc., as appropriate. Research proposals should include clearly articulated research questions; feature data collection and analysis methods that help the project team answer their questions; and include dissemination strategies that allow the research team to share broadly the research findings and implications of the findings for libraries and archives.

The project categories are:
-Community Anchors
-National Digital Platform
-Curating Collections

Your application must designate one of these three project categories. You may submit as many applications as you wish; however, the same proposal may not be submitted to IMLS under more than one category. Below is detailed information about each project category.

Community Anchors:

Interest is given to projects that advance the role of libraries and archives as community anchors or backbone institutions through programs, services, or partnerships. Proposals should encourage civic and cultural engagement, foster community dialogue, facilitate lifelong learning, promote digital inclusion, enhance equity and access, and support economic vitality. The benefits of projects must not be limited to the local community but also advance national practice.

Projects in this category may focus on:

-Identifying, establishing, and refining methods for collaborations between libraries and stakeholders to address community needs. The strategies and frameworks that are developed must be broadly applicable and have the potential to be scaled and implemented in a variety of settings at a national level. Possible partner organizations might include, but are not limited to museums, school systems, youth service organizations, community development groups, city departments, urban planners, or workforce development organizations.

-Exploring and/or developing new, replicable, design-based, and responsive library programming models and tools that engage communities and provide learning experiences for patrons across the lifespan, with a focus on underserved communities. Identification of opportunities should be based on thoughtful analysis of community needs through a range of approaches that might include asset mapping, innovative partnership development, public data mining, and creating indicators with the community. Possible audiences might include, but are not limited to, young children and their families/caregivers; tweens and teens; un- and underemployed adults; veterans; immigrants and refugees; people with disabilities; English language learners; and senior citizens.

-Developing, implementing, assessing, and scaling programs, services, and tools focused on meeting the needs of communities. These may include, but are not limited to workforce and economic development; civic and digital literacy; early learning; community archiving; and informal STEM education opportunities including gaming, making, and citizen science.

-Investigating widespread community challenges that both inform and are informed by current library and archival practice; feature mutually beneficial relationships between researchers and practitioners; and communicate research findings in ways that will lead to demonstrable improvements in library services, sustained community engagement, and increased reach to new and existing library and archive users and underserved audiences. Findings, including unexpected results and challenges, should be shared broadly—with other libraries and archives, institutions, communities, states, local governments, and individuals across the nation—throughout the grant period, rather than exclusively at the conclusion of a project. Project teams should work to ensure that new practices have the potential to be easily adoptable, affordable, sustainable, and widely implementable.

National Digital Platform:

Consideration is given to proposals that expand the digital capacity and capability of libraries and archives to provide content and services to all users in the United States.

Projects in this category may focus on:

-Developing new or improving open source digital library tools that build on existing work, are grounded in the needs of a wide range of libraries and archives, and involve a range of partners who will be involved in iterative testing and use case development. This work might include improving usability, or user community involvement in these tools.

-Addressing intersections between digital issues facing libraries and cutting edge work in other sectors to yield broadly applicable modeling or analytic methods and tools. For example, projects might address digital humanities, digital sciences, civic data initiatives, or open educational resources. Projects should be collaborative in nature and draw from expertise in multiple domains and sectors.

-Researching the need for and impact of investments in national digital library infrastructures and services. This could involve the development of approaches to measuring and assessing the value and impact of digital collections to various user communities. It could also involve documenting opportunities for libraries to meet their users’ demand for digital content areas, such as ebooks, and might explore growth models, user adoption and retention, and mechanisms for sustainability for such infrastructures and services. This may also include work in digital inclusion efforts focused on expanding broadband access and connectivity.

Curating Collections:

Interest is given to proposals that can have a significant national impact on shared services for the access, preservation and/or stewardship of digital library collections and content across the country. Projects focused on preserving or providing access to a particular collection or set of collections cannot be supported. Similarly, the program cannot support the digitization of content or pre-digitization activities such as inventorying collections.

Projects in this category may focus on:

-Rapid prototyping and testing of workflows and processes for preserving, providing access to and encouraging use and reuse of digital collections.

-Catalyzing regional or national efforts to establish plans for shared services for preserving, conserving, providing access to, and interpreting digital content for the research, educational, and public communities.

-Scaling out regional or national infrastructure and shared services for the management, description, or analysis of digital collections in libraries. These projects should build on or help the development of sustainable alliances and networks of libraries and include plans for broadening those alliances and networks. These projects should also clearly articulate how they plan to recruit and support smaller and mid-sized libraries’ engagement with infrastructure and services.

-Exploring methods and techniques for providing digital access to users at scale. This may include issues such as digital stewardship, data curation, applications of linked data, digital archiving with communities, or crowdsourcing.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 147018

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

Anticipated number of awards: 12

Estimated Size of Grant:

-Sparks Grants: Up to $25,000
-Planning Grants: Up to $50,000
-National Forum Grants: Up to $100,000
-Project Grants: Up to $2,000,000
-Research Grants: Up to $2,000,000

Term of Contract:

The anticipated period of performance is October 1, 2018 - September 30, 2021. Project activities may be carried out for one to three years.

Periods of performance may begin no earlier than October 1, 2018. Projects must begin on October 1, November 1, or December 1, 2018.

Grant Period: One year for Sparks Grants and Planning Grants; one to two years for National Forum Grants; and one to three years for Project Grants and Research Grants.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Applicants that fulfill the general criteria for libraries may apply:

To be eligible as an applicant for the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program, you must be either a unit of State or local government or be a private, nonprofit institution that has nonprofit status under the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended, and be located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau.

In addition, you must qualify as one of the following:

-A library or a parent organization, such as a school district, a municipality, a State agency, or an academic institution, that is responsible for the administration of a library.

Eligible libraries include:
-Public libraries;
-Public elementary and secondary school libraries;
-College (including community college) and university libraries;
-Research libraries and archives that are not an integral part of an institution of higher education and that make publicly available library services and materials that are suitable for scholarly research and not otherwise available. (Research libraries must be under the supervision of at least one permanent professional staff librarian and be either generally recognized as possessing unique, scholarly research materials and services that are made available to the public, or able to demonstrate that such is the case when submitting an application to IMLS);
-A private library or other special library, but only if the State in which it is located determines that the library should be considered a library for purposes of Library Services and Technology (see 20 U.S.C. 9121-9165);

-An academic or administrative unit, such as a graduate school of library and information science that is part of an institution of higher education through which it would make an application;

-A digital library, if it makes library materials publicly available and provides library services, including selection, organization, description, reference, and preservation, under the supervision of at least one permanent professional staff librarian;

-A library agency that is an official agency of a State or other unit of government and is charged by the law governing it with the extension and development of public library services within its jurisdiction;

-A library consortium that is a local, statewide, regional, interstate, or international cooperative association of library entities that provides for the systematic and effective coordination of the resources of eligible libraries, as defined above, and information centers that work to improve the services delivered to the clientele of these libraries; or

-A library association that exists on a permanent basis; serves libraries or library professionals on a national, regional, State, or local level; and engages in activities designed to advance the well-being of libraries and the library profession.

This program recognizes the potential for valuable contributions to the overall goals of the NLG-L program by entities that do not meet the eligibility requirements above. Although such entities may not serve as the official applicants, they are encouraged to participate in projects. Federally operated libraries and museums may not apply for NLG-L grants, but they may participate with applicants. Contact staff before submitting a proposal involving a federal agency or federal collection. Non-federal entities may serve as subrecipients or contractors and may receive IMLS grant funds as a result of the project. Consult with staff about any eligibility questions before submitting an application.

Native American tribal organizations may apply if they otherwise meet the above eligibility requirements.

Pre-proposal Conference:

Applicants are invited to participate in one of two pre-application webinars to learn more about the program and ask questions.

The link to the transcript of the webinar on December 12 can be found in Supporting Documents below.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM ET:

Thursday, December 14, 2017, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM ET:

Pre-Application Information:

Projects grants requesting $250,000 or more in IMLS funds require 1:1 cost share. All other funding categories do not require a cost share.

The application process for the NLG-L program is a two-phase process. In the first phase (Preliminary Proposal phase), all applicants must submit a two-page preliminary proposal by the deadline listed above. Selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals in the second phase (Invited Full Proposal phase) of the process. Only invited full proposals will be considered for funding.

FY 2017 Cycle 1:
-Preliminary Proposal Deadline:September 1, 2017
-Full Proposal Deadline (by invitation only): January 16, 2018

FY 2017 Cycle 2:
-Preliminary Proposal Deadline: February 1, 2018
-Full Proposal Deadline (by invitation only): June 8, 2018

For Cycle 2, applications must be submitted through by 11:59 PM U.S. Eastern Time on February 1, 2018, for Preliminary Proposals; June 8, 2018, for Invited Full Proposals.

The anticipated date of notification is September 2018, subject to the availability of funds and IMLS discretion.

All non-federal entities are required to have a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System number in order to apply for, receive, and report on federal awards. You can get one within two business days at no cost.

You must be registered with the System for Award Management (at before you register with It is recommended that you allow at least two weeks to complete your registration.

You must register with before submitting your application to IMLS. Click here to learn more about the multistep registration process. It is recommended that you allow at least two weeks to complete your registration.

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Program Contacts (by project category):

Community Anchors (Sparks, Planning, Forum, and Project Grants):

Marvin Carr, PhD, STEM and Community Engagement Advisor

Tim Carrigan, Senior Program Officer

Sarah Fuller, Senior Program Officer

Community Anchors (Research Grants):
Sandra Toro, PhD, Senior Program Officer

National Digital Platform and Curating Collections:
James Neal, Senior Program Officer

Emily Reynolds, Senior Program Officer

Ashley Sands, PhD, Senior Program Officer

CFDA Number:


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URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)