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ALA Receives IMLS Grant for Nat'l Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment

The American Library Association (A.L.A.) Public Programs Office announced on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 that it received a National Leadership Grant of $99,996, from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (I.M.L.S.). The funds will support a one-year project, entitled the National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (N.I.L.P.P.A.), for the development of a comprehensive research agenda to document the characteristics, audiences, outcomes, and value of public programming in libraries at a national level.

“Over the past two decades, library programming has become an established part of library service for all ages in all types of libraries, while at the same time libraries have experienced unprecedented change in the types of services they offer and how they support their communities,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling. “In this environment, libraries need comprehensive support to help them build a community of practice based on targeted, community-wide research and evaluation. With the support of IMLS, timely and relevant research will be available to help strengthen the role of libraries as core service providers in their community learning world.”

According to the N.I.L.P.P.A.Web page, the project had already begun by the time the ALA Public Programs Office (P.P.O.) made this announcement, because the project was supposed to last from October of 2013 to September of 2014. The following statement from the PPO press release places that in context.

During the grant period, NILPPA project activities will be conducted through two broad phases of work, already underway. Phase 1 laid the groundwork for further research through a meta-analysis of existing data for evidence of impact. Phase 2 will implement a two-part research planning process in collaboration with key stakeholders to develop priorities, models, and an action plan for implementing a research agenda that can document the individual and collective impact of public programs delivered by libraries. The first of these stakeholder planning meetings took place on Friday, January 24 in Philadelphia, and the second stakeholder meeting will take place in May. This will be followed by the publication of a project white paper reporting the project results and establishing a prioritized set of next steps to implement the agenda.

The PPO will collaborate on the grant activities with New Knowledge Organization, a non-profit research organization that brings expertise in documenting impact of experiences in non-formal education settings. According to the PPO, "New Knowledge Organization Ltd. (NewKnowledge) is a nonprofit research institute that works to advance our collective understanding of how people develop knowledge in their communities and are motivated to address the grand challenges facing society."

Founded in 2012 and based in New York City, NewKnowledge works with organizations throughout the US [sic] on experiences in culture, media, health and wellness, and the biosphere. An important focus is Learning Cities Initiatives, which seeks to understand how groups and communities come together to use cultural resources in order to build a better world.

The PPO will use the N.I.L.P.P.A.Web page to keep ALA members abreast of progress. "Throughout the grant project ALA will communicate with the field by maintaining a Web page dedicated to the project... blogging on its progress at each stage of design, and inviting feedback and input from the field through multiple ALA digital and social media channels."

In the press release, the PPO states, "The ALA Public Programs Office promotes cultural and community programming as an essential part of library service in all types and sizes of libraries. Successful library programming initiatives have included Let’s Talk About It reading and discussion series, traveling exhibitions, film discussion programs, the Great Stories CLUB, LIVE! @ your library and more. The website www.ProgrammingLibrarian.org brings librarians valuable information to support them in the creation of high-quality cultural programs for their communities."

NewKnowledge states on its Web site, "New Knowledge Organization Ltd. pursues a deep understanding of how people learn about and engage with society's grand challenges.We work to expand understanding of positive lived experiences and explore how knowledge is acquired and advanced in our culture. We seek to promote a strong democracy that enables all people to live to their greatest potential, while contributing at their fullest capacity to the advancement of a just and equitable society that sustains itself in harmony with the biosphere. We are committed to lifelong learning -- increasing knowledge through research, evaluation, and new theories of cultural growth, with a strong commitment to sharing information and contributing to public debate."

We accomplish our work through inquiry into four contemporary phenomenon: the pursuit of health and personal wellness; the use of media for self-discovery and acquisition of knowledge; the use of learning experiences to engage in cultural advancement; and the pursuit of symbiotic relationships with the biosphere. We seek to disseminate the results of our research widely, to explore how thought migrates in society, and to partner with leading thinkers in cultural evolution to increase the quality of life for all people and the natural systems on which we depend.

The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for America's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums, with a mission to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. By making grants to support programs, conduct research, and develop policy, the IMLS aims to help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.