Providence Public Library’s “Data for Good” program wins $532,380 federal grant to connect data professionals across many sectors with non-profit and government agencies that need expertise assistance as well as $200k for National Digital Newspaper Program; Brown University & Roger Williams University get grants to recruit and train the next generation of librarians 

PROVIDENCE, RI - With libraries playing a critical role in education and as a conduit for information, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced that three local libraries have earned new federal grants to extend their reach, recruit and train the next generation of librarians, and connect data professionals across many sectors with non-profit and government agencies that need expert assistance.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent federal agency, is awarding $532,380 to Providence Public Library (PPL) to support the “Data for Good” program.  There is growing recognition of the potential for today’s wealth of data to serve as a powerful tool for driving positive change in the community.  PPL, in partnership with Tableau, launched its “Data for Good” initiative in April 2019 to connect data professionals across many sectors with non-profit and government agencies that need expertise assistance.  This new federal grant expands on PPL’s previous work in data visualization, data analysis, and data programming for diverse youth and adults at PPL. In addition to resources for the program locally, the grant funding will empower PPL to partner with libraries and archives around the nation to teach community members data skills that are broadly relevant across industries, occupations, and daily life while working to address critical and emerging social issues and driving positive change.

PPL and the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) are also receiving a new $199,579 federal grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to continue ongoing efforts to preserve historic newspapers and convert their contents into digital, searchable files.  The funds are being awarded as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a partnership between NEH and the Library of Congress to create a national digital resource of historically significant newspapers dating back to the 18th century. 

Additionally, IMLS awarded $100,000 through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21) to Brown University, in partnership with the HBCU Library Alliance for a project called “Stronger Together, Leading through Community,” to help develop the next generation of library leaders and foster transformation in academic libraries. The project team will plan and pilot a set of in-person and virtual developmental activities for emerging library leaders, including a planning symposium, an intensive workshop, and staff exchange residencies. This partnership between Brown University and historically Black colleges and universities will provide a model for similar mutually beneficial collaborations across different kinds of academic libraries, supported by careful assessment and evaluation to inform longer-term strategies for nurturing emerging leaders.

Roger Williams University Library was also granted $96,540 to partner with North Carolina State University Libraries and the Open Education Network to develop a blueprint for equitable open educational practices and pilot a training program that prepares librarians and faculty to serve as partners for these efforts. As awareness of open educational resources continues to grow and gain support in making a postsecondary education more accessible, academic librarians are now being asked to lead faculty in the exploration and implementation of open educational practices. This project seeks to develop a flexible blueprint that would enable actionable pathways for librarians and faculty to collaborate in making this work more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable.

“Public libraries and the librarians and staff who run them are essential contributors toward public learning and community success. I’m thrilled to help deliver federal funding to strengthen local libraries and help Providence Public Library expand its reach, deliver effective library services, and meet the needs of our diverse community.  With this new grant PPL’s Data for Good program has a chance to become an even stronger force for good by connecting data professionals across many sectors with non-profit and government agencies that need expertise assistance.  And these grants through LB21 will help two of our universities be a force for training the next generation of library professionals that reflect a diversity of backgrounds and approaches to education,” said Senator Reed,  a member of the Appropriations Committee and a leading proponent of IMLS funding.

“Since implementing our “Data for Good” initiative in conjunction with the RI Tableau User Group in 2019, and subsequently through an expanded pilot program for teens, we have seen first-hand the potential for transformative impact on individuals and their communities through a wide variety of data visualization and analysis projects. This program is truly a ‘win-win’ for all involved. We are extremely excited that this IMLS funding will now enable us to share this model and partner with other libraries around the country to help them achieve similar successes,” said Jack Martin, Executive Director of PPL. “We’re equally thrilled to be receiving additional funding in support of our ongoing NDNP project with RIHS. To date, we’ve submitted more than 40,000 pages to this important national digital resource.”

Nationwide, IMLS awarded thirty-nine competitive National Leadership Grants for Libraries (NLG-L) totaling over $12 million.  These federal funds support projects that enhance the quality of library and archive services nationwide by advancing theory and practice.  The goal of the NLG-L grants is to develop programs that can be widely used, adapted, scaled, or replicated to extend the benefits of federal investment across the nation.

The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program supports developing a diverse workforce of librarians to better meet the changing learning and information needs of the American public by enhancing the training and professional development of library and archives professionals; developing faculty and library leaders; and recruiting educating, and retaining the next generation of library and archives professionals.

In 2018, Senator Reed helped successfully secure a $450,000 Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge Grant from NEH for Providence Public Library.  That federal award helped with PPL’s renovations and moved special collections to a new, user-friendly space to better preserve artifacts, items, and resources for decades to come.

Senator Reed has authored and successfully passed the bipartisan Museum and Library Services Act to provide annual federal assistance to museums and libraries across the country.  The law authorizes up to $299 million annually through 2025 to advance the roles of libraries and museums in education, lifelong learning, historic preservation, and workforce development.  The law also authorizes federal museum and library programs administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, including LLG-L and LB21.

Last year, Senator Reed led the successful effort to include $50 million in the CARES Act for funding through IMLS to help libraries and museums respond to community needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  And this year, Senator Reed successfully included an additional $200 million for the Library Stabilization Fund Act in the American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed into law.  This law will help support public libraries and ensure they can safely provide much needed services during the pandemic.  Reed’s language ensured Rhode Island public libraries receive a minimum of $2 million.

This year Senator Reed introduced the Build America’s Libraries Act (S. 127), which would provide $5 billion over three years to build and modernize public libraries nationwide.  According to the American Library Association (ALA), there are more than 16,000 public libraries in the United States.