Tips for Applying for a Native American Library Services Basic Grant

For more than twenty years, the Institute of Museum and Library Services has provided grants to tribal communities throughout the United States. Over the past ten years alone, IMLS made awards to more than 350 tribes and indigenous organizations in 33 states, including over 70 each in Alaska and California, 34 in Oklahoma, 24 in Washington, 19 in New Mexico, 15 in Arizona, 12 in Michigan, 7 in Minnesota, 7 in Montana, and 5 each in South Dakota and Utah.

Recently, IMLS announced an April 1 deadline for applications for the Native American Library Services Basic Grants program. Basic grants support existing tribal library operations and help maintain core library services. All federally recognized tribes and Alaskan Native villages and corporations with libraries are eligible and welcome to apply. Last year, IMLS awarded over 180 basic grants. They’ve put together a new list of tips to help you submit a successful application package this year—here’s what you need to know.

Changes in Basic Grants:  This year, basic grants now range from $6,000-$10,000. Only up to $3,000 of your total budget can be used for education/assessment activities. These activities include conference presentations and attendance, continuing education and training, and hiring consultants. However, you’re not required to include education/assessment activities. If you would like to use all $10,000 for salaries, books, or other library-related budget items, that’s both allowable and appropriate! Please see the Notice of Funding Opportunity for more details.

Tips for a Successful Application: Please include all the required documents in your application package. We don’t want your application to be rejected because you forgot the SF-424S, the program information sheet, the library services plan, the budget, or the digital product form, if you need one. Here are a few tips to help you complete all the forms correctly:

  • Applicants must use the IMLS budget form, found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity.
  • digital product form is required if digital products like websites, apps, datasets, and other digital content, tools, and resources are created with IMLS funds.
  • All applicants must address performance measures. Please join us for a webinar about performance measures on Wednesday, February 20, from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET to learn more.
  • Reminder: we can accept PDFs only. We cannot accept Word documents. Make sure all of your required application components are PDFs.
  • Make sure your budget items match what is described in your library services plan. Also, provide a separate description in your plan for education/assessment activities, if applicable.

Using Grants.gov All applicants are required to use Workspace on Grants.gov. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

A few tips:

  • Register early for a D-U-N-S® number, register with the System of Award Management (SAM) at sam.gov, and create a Grants.gov account.
  • Make sure you don’t have any delinquent reports to federal agencies, since you will be ineligible to receive an award if this is the case. If you’re not sure of your status, please get in touch with us, and we can help you find out.

Getting Help:

IMLS is here to help! Please read the current Notice of Funding Opportunity and reach out if you have any questions. Our webinars are great refreshers for applicants who have not submitted a proposal for several years, as well as new applicants who are unfamiliar with the application process.

  • If you can’t join us for a live webinar, you can view webinars on-demand. If you’re unsure if a cost is allowable or if you are not sure about what to include in your plan, we can talk with you and give you feedback on your ideas before you submit.
  • For questions about eligibility, your library services plan and project activities, the digital product form, or your budget, including allowability of costs, contact:
  • Sandra Toro, Ph.D., Senior Program Officer, storo@imls.gov, 202-653-4662
  • For questions about application requirements and deadlines, contact:
  • Sarah Boonie, Program Specialist, sboonie@imls.gov, 202-653-4761 or
  • Chelsea Cole, Program Specialist, ccole@imls.gov, 202-653-4719

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Regan Harper

Director, Networking & Resource Sharing at Colorado State Library
Contact Regan at harper_r@cde.state.co.us.
Regan Harper