Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Over the summer a project proposed by SLIS faculty received a $149,996 grant from the IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. Lead by SLIS assistant professor Dr. Micah Bateman and former SLIS director Dr. Lindsay Mattock, "Activating Archives in Remote Communities" will build upon previous SLIS work with regional libraries throughout Iowa. 

When asked what motivated this grant application, Professor Bateman referenced SLIS’s history of partnering with libraries throughout Iowa:  

SLIS has a rich recent history of partnering with regional libraries on projects and instruction, and what we noticed is that particularly small and rural libraries, because they are the only memory institutions within large radii, have closets and basements full of untouched archival documents that have been donated by community members. Following recent research that shows how participatory community archives lead to community wellbeing and resilience, we thought we might investigate how to help rural library workers organize such archives. 

The goal of this project is to develop training materials that can be used by librarians working in rural locations nationwide. These materials will provide information on how to best care for the collections of photographs, newspapers, genealogical documents, and other primary source materials in their institutions. The first year of the project will consist of meetings with an advisory panel comprised of “ a stellar group of information professionals from across the country,” Professor Bateman explained, “We’ve already held our first meeting, and it was a whole masterclass in community archives in and of itself. We’re confident that the rest of the meetings will be as rich and exciting to attend.” 

By the end of the project’s two-year term, the team plans to use the knowledge gained from these meetings and secondary research to develop Open Educational Resources (OER) that will be shared online. These resources may be used by individual librarians, or by LIS programs to enhance their courses. The team also hopes to use the results of the research to add training in working with community-based collections in rural libraries to SLIS curriculum, as well as to develop an online certificate program that can be completed by information professionals to train them in the skills needed to effectively work with rural archives. 

Professor Bateman emphasizes the importance of this kind of training for the professionals working in what are "often the only memory institutions for miles." He notes that these essential institutions often lack funding, which means that they are "often staffed by overworked and underpaid staff." So we’re hoping to devise training materials that help rural communities use their libraries as hubs for community-engaged archives without further burdening the staff."