(CLOSED) IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries

Sponsor Name: 
Institute for Museum and Library Services
Description of the Award: 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recognizes the challenges facing museums and libraries at this time, including the adaptations and adjustments that will be necessary to rebuild staffing, reopen facilities, and address the needs of communities affected by the impact of a global crisis.

The goal of this grant program is to support the role of museums and libraries in responding to the coronavirus pandemic in ways that meet the immediate and future COVID-19 needs of the communities and audiences they serve.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Pub. L. 116-136 [March 27, 2020]) has provided funds to the Institute of Museum and Library Services “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus…to expand digital network access, purchase internet accessible devices, and provide technical support services” for the benefit of communities impacted by the public health emergency.

The IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries grant program invites project proposals that focus on preserving jobs, training staff, addressing the digital divide, planning for reopening, and providing technical support and capacity building for digital inclusion and engagement while prioritizing services for high-need communities. We encourage efforts to develop programs, tools, models, partnerships, and other resources that will address immediate concerns and have the potential to inspire and benefit museums and libraries throughout the nation.

What are high-need communities?

To reflect the priorities outlined in the CARES Act, we ask applicants addressing digital inclusion and related technical support needed by their communities or target audiences to design their projects using the following types of data:

  • Economic Indicators, including but not limited to:

    • Unemployment rates
    • Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP) participation rates
    • Poverty rates
    • Broadband availability and adoption

Applicants may wish to explore the data for these and other variables posted by the United States Census Bureau (including COVID-19 Demographic and Economic Resources) as they develop their proposals.

Indicators of successful projects?

Indicators (characteristics) of successful projects in the IMLS CARES Act Grants for Museums and Libraries grant program are as follows:

  • High Impact: The project will use appropriate existing datasets to develop responses to problems created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency and to measure their short- and medium-term effectiveness.
  • Immediate Implementation: The project adopts a timeline that will enable immediate engagement addressing specific needs of the community and target audiences.
  • Shareable Results: The project will generate services, practices, findings, models, tools, and/or partnerships that can be shared and have the potential to be used or adapted by museums and libraries in other communities throughout the nation.


A recording of an informational Webinar regarding the program is posted at: https://www.imls.gov/webinars/imls-cares-act-grants-museums-and-libraries

Museum Entity

To be eligible as a Museum Entity, you must be an organization that meets all three of the following criteria:

  1. You must be either a unit of State, local, or tribal government or be a private, nonprofit organization that has tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code;
  2. You must be located in one of the 50 States of the United States of America; and
  3. You must qualify as one of the following:

    1. A museum that, using a professional staff, is organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational, cultural heritage, or aesthetic purposes; owns or uses tangible objects, either animate or inanimate; cares for these objects; and exhibits these objects to the general public on a regular basis through facilities that it owns or operates.

      1. What types of institutions are included in the term “museum”? If they otherwise meet these requirements, “museums” include, but are not limited to, aquariums, arboretums, art museums, botanical gardens, children’s/youth museums, general museums (those having two or more significant disciplines), historic houses/sites, history museums, natural history/anthropology museums, nature centers, planetariums, science/technology centers, specialized museums (limited to a single distinct subject), and zoological parks.
      2. What does it mean to be “using a professional staff”? An institution uses a professional staff if it employs at least one staff member, or the full-time equivalent, whether paid or unpaid, primarily engaged in the acquisition, care, or exhibition to the public of objects owned or used by the institution.
      3. What does it mean to “exhibit the objects to the general public”? An institution exhibits objects to the general public if such exhibition is a primary purpose of the institution. An institution that exhibits objects to the general public for at least 120 days a year is deemed to exhibit objects to the general public on a regular basis.

An institution which does not have the exhibition of objects as a primary purpose and/or does not exhibit objects to the public for at least 120 days a year may be determined to be eligible as a museum under certain circumstances.

    1. An organization or association that engages in activities designed to advance the wellbeing of museums and the museum profession;
    2. An institution of higher education, including public and nonprofit universities

If my museum is located within a parent organization, can my museum apply on its own?

A museum located within a parent organization that is a State, local, or tribal government or multipurpose nonprofit entity, such as a municipality, university, historical society, foundation, or cultural center, may apply on its own behalf if the museum:

  • is able to independently fulfill all the eligibility requirements listed in the above three criteria;
  • functions as a discrete unit within the parent organization;
  • has its own fully segregated and itemized operating budget; and
  • has the authority to make the application on its own.
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jun 12, 2020
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Submit your notification using the button in the InfoReady system to provide your contact information no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
Penn State OVPR NOI Deadline: 
Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 12:00pm
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link: