IMLS-Funded Grant for Improving Access
to Archives and Special Collections is Underway

March 26 2012

For Immediate Release – please distribute broadly

Last fall, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded a National Leadership Grant to the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah on behalf of three consortia: (a) Utah Academic Library Consortium’s Mountain West Digital Library, (b) Orbis Cascade Alliance’s Northwest Digital Archives, and (c) Rocky Mountain Online Archive, hosted by the University of New Mexico.


This collaborative planning grant is a one-year project Planning for a Western Archival Network: Administrative, Technical, and End User Concerns. The three consortia on the grant are currently exploring ways to improve user access to Encoded Archival Description (EAD) finding aids describing the archival materials in our three Western regions, possibly via a central “Western EAD search portal.” Fifteen staff members representing the three consortia met in Albuquerque in January to examine ways to create better user experiences and realize cost efficiencies through shared standards, technology and administration. Follow up meetings are planned in Salt Lake City, UT in April and Portland, OR in September.


This project will have national impact for both end users, and the EAD community at large. Once the planning is completed and the methods implemented, end users will have easier and quicker access to both a greater volume and diversity of archival materials. The intent is to provide a model that other organizations can implement so that consortia across the country benefit from reduced costs and increased access to collections.

Dr. Gregory Thompson, Associate Dean for Special Collections at the Marriott Library, and principal investigator on the grant states: “We are extremely excited about how this grant will open the doors to incredible collections across the west… In the long-term, citizens everywhere will encounter easier and faster online access to historical photographs, manuscripts, oral histories, and many other rare and historic materials.”


Based on the grant activities, final recommendations and a report will be released in October 2012. The three consortia hope to pursue additional collaborative funding for the implementation phase of the project.


Contact Information

Questions and comments about the grant may be directed to:

·       University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library:
Gregory Thompson, Associate Dean for Special Collections, and Principal Investigator for the grant (801) 581-3421, [log in to unmask]


·       Mountain West Digital Library:
Sandra McIntyre, Program Director, (801) 585-0969, [log in to unmask]

·       Northwest Digital Archives:
Jodi Allison-Bunnell, Program Manager,
(406) 829-6528, [log in to unmask]

·       Rocky Mountain Online Archive:
Kathlene Ferris, Digital Programs Manager, (
505) 277-7172, [log in to unmask]



Background on the Consortia

Three consortia of EAD partners are working together on this project:

·       The Utah Academic Library Consortium ( is a 40-year-old consortium of 14 academic libraries in Utah, along with the Utah State Library and affiliate member libraries in Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. UALC partners cooperate in continually improving the availability and delivery of library and information services to the higher education community and to the State of Utah, through fostering research, developing and implementing cooperative library programs; providing a means for the exchange of information on cooperative library ventures; maximizing limited resources by improving library methods and avoiding expensive duplicate purchases; maximizing information delivery through shared use of technology and human resources; and acting as an advocate for excellence in library resources and services. One of the flagship programs of the UALC is the Mountain West Digital Library (, a free search portal to 350 digital collections containing over 650,000 resources about the Mountain West region from 62 partnering libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage institutions. Eight partners of the MWDL maintain EAD files, and several more are involved in creating new EAD collections.

·       The Orbis Cascade Alliance ( is a consortium of 36 academic libraries in Oregon and Washington. Alliance member libraries work together to provide outstanding services to students and faculty, share information resources and expertise, develop library staff, and help members allocate financial and human resources to serve the unique needs of each member. To this end, the Alliance considers the combined collections of member institutions as one collection. The Alliance supports a number of services that support this vision, including Summit, a system that allows students, faculty and staff to easily search and request library materials owned by member libraries; courier service offering delivery of library materials in Oregon, Washington and Idaho; the Northwest Digital Archives (, which offers enhanced access to primary sources in the Northwest U.S.; cooperative purchasing for databases, ebooks and ejournals; and other digital library services.

·       The University of New Mexico University Libraries ( provides the infrastructure for the 30 contributing institutions in New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming of the Rocky Mountain Online Archive ( ). UNM supports and maintains RMOA as a service to libraries, museums and archives in the three states with the goal of improving access to manuscript and archival collections. Initiated with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2004, continuing support comes from the UNM University Libraries and the Center for Regional Studies.


Jodi Allison-Bunnell
Program Manager, Northwest Digital Archives
Orbis Cascade Alliance
418 Woodford
Missoula, MT 59801
(406) 829-6528
fax (860) 540-8281
I am in the Mountain time zone (two hours ahead of Alaska, one hour ahead of Pacific, one hour behind Central, two hours behind Eastern)