By the Spring of 2021, IMLS will have nearly completed development of a new platform to analyze every discretionary library grant award made in all its discretionary grant programs dating back to 2015. In doing so, this tool enables better understanding of key areas of investment and intended returns associated with these grant dollars. It revamps the way the Agency can plan, solicit, and administer grants that maximize federal taxpayer dollars. It simultaneously allows IMLS to interact with library practitioners and researchers more effectively across the country to identify critical patterns associated with promising practices. These deeper insights help inform IMLS and its constituents about trends with past investments and outcomes associated with them, as well as how various investment choices project into future impacts.
The platform is the product of a collaboration between data scientists at the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), one of the nation’s foremost nonprofit research institutes, and the subject matter expertise of IMLS library program staff. These two parties have partnered together in developing this product in two key stages. In the first stage, RTI’s analysts mined all administrative records from applications to final performance reports for all discretionary grants made between 2015-2020. They vetted their insights with IMLS staff, culminating in a series of logic maps and taxonomy for tracing patterns of the who, what, when, where and why in these awards.
The taxonomy and logic maps enabled the development of a grant monitoring dashboard tool in the second stage to track all of the thousands of grant awards and applications across multiple dimensions based on user-driven queries, like fiscal year, award size, grantee characteristics, subject area, project activity types, geographic locale, and target audience. Using this tool, IMLS can now easily use data to test theories of grant award performance in advancing IMLS’s own strategic funding priorities as well as enabling this federal agency to share this knowledge with library practitioners, researchers, and others interested in understanding the ways that libraries benefit the communities they serve.
A key portion of this session will be in demonstrating the various features of the tool. In addition to sharing analyses already developed by IMLS staff, we will solicit suggestions for new analyses from audience participants as well as entertain suggestions for ways that the tool can be better used by to help library practitioners and other interested groups.
Attendees will learn how IMLS is using evidence to inform strategic investments in libraries. They will be able to apply evidence to understand the niche of Federal investments in libraries.
Attendees will gain insight into writing proposals that align well with key areas of investment for IMLS grant funds.
Attendees will better understand how IMLS is using the evidence from this tool to inform future strategic investments in library services.