Institute of Museum and Library Services

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Institute of Museum and Library Services
Agency overview
Formed 1996
Headquarters Washington, DC
Employees 65
Annual budget $227.8 million for 2015
Agency executive
  • Kathryn K. Matthew, Director

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is an independent agency of the United States federal government established in 1996. It is the main source of federal support for libraries and museums within the United States, having the mission to "create strong libraries and museums that connect people with information and ideas."[1] IMLS "works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development." Their vision is "a democratic society where communities and individuals thrive with broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning."[1] In fiscal year 2007, IMLS had a budget of $247 million.[2]

In addition to its other responsibilities, the IMLS annually awards the National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest award given for community service by libraries and museums.

IMLS is located at 1800 M Street NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20036-5802.


IMLS was established by the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) of 1996, which includes the Library Services and Technology Act and the Museum Services Act. IMLS was reauthorized in 2003 by Public Law 108-81.[3] The 1996 law combined the Institute of Museum Services, which had been in existence since 1976, and the Library Programs Office, which had been part of the Department of Education since 1956.

As amended, MLSA authorizes IMLS to promote improvements in library services; to facilitate access to resources in libraries; to encourage resource sharing among libraries; to support museums in fulfilling their public service and educational roles; to encourage leadership and innovation to enhance museum services; to assist museums in the conservation of America's heritage; to support museums in achieving the highest standards of management and service to the public; and to support resource sharing among museums, libraries and other organizations.

Further, MLSA authorizes IMLS to carry out and publish analyses of the impact of museum and library services.[1]

On September 25, 2003, the president signed the Museum and Library Services Act of 2003. The act is reauthorized every 5 years, with the first reauthorization taking place in 2009. Reauthorization updates the Museum Services Act and the Library Services and Technologies Act,and doubles the minimum allotment under the Grants to State Library Agencies program.[4]

In April 2014, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) recommended that the federal government not fund MLSA and "shift the federal agency’s responsibilities to the private sector in his 2015 fiscal year budget resolution"[5] such as "funded at the state and local level and augmented significantly by charitable contributions from the private sector".[6]


Following a proposal by President George W. Bush, the activities of the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science was consolidated under IMLS, along with some of the activities of the National Center for Education Statistics, in order to create a unified body for federal support of library and information policy.[7] The consolidation took effect in early 2008.


The Institute of Museum and Library Services offers numerous grants for museums, libraries, and other cultural heritage institutions.[8] The grants support the IMLS's strategic goals of advancing "innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement."[1] The grants include the following:

  • Conservation Assessment Program
  • Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies
  • Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
  • Museum Assessment Program
  • Museum Grants for African American History and Culture
  • Museums for America
  • National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards
  • National Leadership Grants for Libraries
  • National Leadership Grants for Museums
  • National Medal for Museum and Library Service
  • Native American Library Services: Basic Grants
  • Native American Library Services: Enhancement Grants
  • Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program
  • Native Hawaiian Library Services
  • Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries
  • Sparks! Ignition Grants for Museums


IMLS's Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) "supports the agency in its efforts to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas." OPRE performs three key functions: policy research, program evaluation, and data collection.[9]

Data Collection[edit]

OPRE uses surveys to collect data, including:

  • Public Library Survey (PLS) - collects data from 9,000 public library systems.
  • State Library Agency Survey (SLAA) - provides descriptive data about state libraries.
  • Public Needs for Library and Museum Services Survey (PNLMS) - measures "expectations and satisfaction" with cultural heritage institutions through a household survey.
  • Museums Count - establishes data about the size, distribution and scope of the museum sector.
  • Museum Universe Data File (MUDF) - contains information about cultural heritage institutions in the United States.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d About Us
  2. ^ News
  3. ^ Public Law 108-81
  4. ^ Mjoseth, Jeaninne, Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, 3rd ed, "Institute of Museum and Library Services", Aug 25, 2011
  5. ^ Wright, Jazzy (1 April 2014). "House budget proposal dismisses role of IMLS". American Library Association. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Paul Ryan (April 2014). "The Path to Prosperity" (PDF). House Budget Committee. p. 51. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  7. ^ ”IMLS Gets Feedback on NCLIS Consolidation”, “American Libraries”, 8(8): 8.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links[edit]