IMLS support for free and open source software

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the U.S. government’s primary vehicle for direct federal support of libraries, museums, and archives across the entire country. It should come as no surprise that the Trump administration’s “budget blueprint” proposes to wipe it out, along with the NEA, NEH, Meals on Wheels, and dozens of other programs.

While there is reason for hope that Congress will ignore at least some of the cuts that Trump proposes, the IMLS in particular has been in the sights of House Speaker Paul Ryan before. We cannot afford to be complacent.

Loss of the IMLS and the funding it delivers would be a disaster for many reasons, but I’ll focus on just one: the IMLS has paid a significant role in funding in the creation and use of free and open source software for libraries, museums, and archives. Besides the direct benefit to the institutions who were awarded grants to build or use F/LOSS, such grants are a smart investment on the part of an IMLS: a dollar spent on producing software that anybody can freely use can rebound to the benefit of many more libraries.

For example, here is a list of some of the software projects whose creation or enhancement was funded by an IMLS grant:

This is only a partial list; it does not include LSTA funding that libraries may have used to either implement or enhance F/LOSS systems or money that libraries contributed to F/LOSS development as part of a broader grant project.

IMLS has also funded some open source projects that ultimately… went nowhere. But that’s OK; IMLS funding is one way that libraries can afford to experiment.

Do you or your institution use any of this software? Would you miss it if it were gone — or never existed — or was only available in some proprietary form? If so… write your congressional legislators today.

CC BY-SA 4.0 IMLS support for free and open source software by Galen Charlton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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