The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has awarded a total of more than $1.5 million in funding for four projects led by the University of Washington Information School.
The projects span several initiatives to benefit libraries and their users: making libraries more inclusive for children with autism, using open data to serve library users, managing post-traumatic stress among library staff, and supporting teen and young-adult patrons of rural libraries.
Two of the awards are part of the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program:
Autism-Ready Libraries: Early Literacy Services for Autistic Children and Their Families, awarded $476,568, will research ways to improve libraries’ capacity to include children with autism and their families in early literacy programming. Working with regional libraries and organizations that assist autistic children, the research team will develop an “Autism-Ready Libraries Toolkit” that will include programming and training materials to enable libraries to better serve autistic children.
“Autistic children and their families have largely been ignored outside of formal education spaces,” said iSchool Associate Professor Hala Annabi, the lead researcher on the project. “Our goal is to build capacity within libraries to provide much needed early literacy programs and create welcoming spaces for autistic children and their families to engage with their communities.”
Annabi will be joined by co-principal investigators Michelle Martin, the iSchool’s Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services; and Jill Locke, a research assistant professor in the UW Speech & Hearing Sciences department. The research team also includes doctoral students Milly Romeijn-Stout and Christine Moeller.
"I am thrilled to begin work on such an important project for inclusive early literacy services," Romeijn-Stout said.
Leveraging Use of Open Data by Public Library Staff for Community Benefit, awarded $100,000, will explore ways in which open data can help public libraries better understand the communities they serve. Researchers will work with librarians to identify existing barriers to the use of open data. Their work will lay the groundwork for an open-source data platform by creating a plan based on users’ needs.
“We are very excited to work in partnership with public libraries in Washington and nationally to help them better understand and eventually use open data to deepen their understanding of the communities they serve,” Jowaisas said.
Two of the grants are part of the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program:
Trauma in the Library: Symptoms of PTSD Among Staff and Methods for Ensuring Trauma-Informed Care, awarded $498,081, will research whether public library staff experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to incidents in the workplace. Through a national survey, interviews and focus groups with public library staff, the study will yield baseline data about post-traumatic stress disorder and library staff, recommendations for a trauma-informed care approach for helping library staff, and curricula for information schools and professional development.
“For decades, public library staff have been the trustees of community safety, providing frontline sanctuary for myriad needs in addition to their central mandate of information services,” said iSchool Professor Karen Fisher, who is leading the project. “This inaugural study will examine PTSD among library staff and create methods for trauma-informed care for America’s most vital first community responders.”
Connecting Rural and Small Libraries to Connected Learning, awarded $427,062, builds on ConnectedLib, a research project launched in 2015 that helps librarians use digital media to make learning connections with youths. ConnectedLib generated a toolkit for librarians, and this new project will broaden the reach of that toolkit to support public librarians serving teens in small and rural libraries.
“I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to continue the work we started in 2015 with the ConnectedLib Project,” said iSchool Associate Professor Katie Davis, the lead researcher. “This time, we'll be working directly with librarians in small and rural libraries to support their efforts to engage youth in rich, relevant learning experiences.”
The project will tailor the content of the ConnectedLib Toolkit for small and rural libraries, launch a community of practice for library staff to support each other’s ConnectedLib activities, and develop a new module for the toolkit that focuses on youth civic engagement.
Davis’s research team will include Chris Coward, a senior principal research scientist with the iSchool; and Mega Subramaniam, an associate professor in the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies.