University Libraries-led team awarded IMLS National Forum Grant

Jennifer Cifelli
October 01, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team led by Penn State University Libraries, in collaboration with the University of Missouri–Kansas City University (UMKC) Libraries was recently awarded $99,429 in grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) National Leadership Grants program.

The grant, titled “Collective Responsibility: National Forum on Labor Practices for Grant-Funded Digital Positions,” will enable the team to host two meetings to explore labor issues that inform on the experiences of grant-funded digital laborers in the libraries, archives and museums (LAM) communities and aims to develop ethical labor practices for grant-funded positions.

The project, led by Ruth Kitchin Tillman, cataloging systems and linked data strategist for the University Libraries, and Sandy Rodriguez, head of Digital Archives & Stewardship at UMKC Libraries, will run from Oct. 1, 2018, through March 2020 and will consist of two meetings for up to 40 participants in 2019; one in spring on "Experience" and one in fall on "Practices." Both meetings seek to foster collaboration between funders, institutional participants and grant laborers to learn from those already doing the work, and challenge barriers to progress.

The work builds on research conducted in 2017 by the Digital Library Federation Working Group on Labor that revealed the need to bring together stakeholders from across LAM communities and address issues created and reproduced by short-term and grant-funded positions, how those impact the lives and professions of the workforce, and how they affect investments made in national digital LAM infrastructures and services.

By engaging representatives and stakeholders from the three primary groups involved, said Tillman, the team “intends to develop a systematic understanding of the labor conditions created by grants. Together, we will create actionable best practices which improve these conditions.”

Tillman added that the measurable outcomes of such a project will include a white paper describing the lived experiences of workers in contingent positions and recommendations for the creation of positions with grant funding.

"By engaging in the forum, funders will ensure that guidelines we develop can be used within the regulatory and governance environments in which they operate," said Tillman.

“Grant projects are essential in moving LAM fields forward and providing necessary support that serves a wide variety of communities. In this work, we need to also be responsible to those who are essential for realizing the results of grant projects and to consider the effect on individuals, project sustainability, and growth in the profession,” said Karen Estlund, associate dean of Penn State University Libraries. “This project is a critical investigation into how we can proceed responsibly in these efforts.”

In their abstract for the project, Tillman and Rodriguez wrote, “The forum aims to spark a national discourse into broader visions for worker equity and inclusion within the collective framework of concern, and to model how such partnerships may respectfully engage all parties involved toward effecting change.”   

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 01, 2018