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UT Receives IMLS Planning Grant to Research Role of Rural Public Libraries in Economic Development

The University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences (UT-SIS) has been awarded a one-year planning grant of $49,557 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  Associate Professor Bharat Mehra and Assistant Professor Wade Bishop will administer the grant project, “The role of rural public libraries in small business economic development in the Appalachian region: A case study of Tennessee” (PLSB-TN).”  The two phase research project will begin Oct. 1, 2014 and conclude Sept. 30, 2015.

In Phase 1 quantitative and qualitative data will be collected about the roles of rural public libraries in Tennessee from the small business and librarian staff stakeholder groups.  Phase 2 will develop a blueprint for a Public Library Small Business Toolkit and a strategic action plan for its operationalization and implementation. The goal of PLSB-TN is to serve as a pilot case experience and assessment test-bed to expand using similar strategies at the regional and national levels.

The grant partners include: (1) Blount County Public Library (2) Clinch River Regional Library (3) Holston River Regional Library (4) Sevier County Public Library System. The Tennessee State Library and Archives will assist in distribution of the survey and identification of interview participants. A strong letter of support was provided by the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce in Clinton, Tenn.

“The Appalachian region faces tremendous economic and educational challenges,” said Mehra.  “My experience working with rural libraries in the region leads me to believe we can successfully build a model to help rural libraries play a greater role in small business economic development by encouraging information literacy and access to much needed information and technology resources.”

About IMLS: This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Leadership Grants for Libraries. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow IMLS on Facebook and Twitter.