UK School of Information Science researchers awarded nearly $700,000 in IMLS grants

Shannon Oltmann. Maria Cahill.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2023) — University of Kentucky School of Information Science researchers Associate Professor Shannon M. Oltmann and Professor Maria Cahill were awarded nearly $700,000 in combined grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent agency of the United States federal government charged with supporting libraries and museums.

Oltmann and her team received the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant for $445,281. Oltmann plans to use the grant for a three-year research project that will examine how public libraries respond to attempts to ban books. Her team plans on creating a detailed database of public libraries that have faced calls to ban or restrict books in their collection and interview their library directors about their experiences and how they responded to these censorship attempts.

They will use the results of the interviews to develop a survey that they will distribute nationally.

“At each stage, we will have data to analyze, write about and share with the library and researcher communities via webinars and our research website,” Oltmann said. “We hope to learn how libraries respond to censorship challenges, which will help us determine the best approaches in these situations.”

Oltmann plans to continue focusing further on her passion for preventing censorship and ending the book-banning controversy in public libraries throughout the U.S.

“I have studied censorship and access to information throughout my career at the University of Kentucky, but with this grant, I can really focus on the current crisis of book banning in public libraries,” Oltmann said. “In turn, this will allow me to help libraries experiencing really difficult situations and find practical, useful ways to reduce book banning in the U.S.”

Cahill is part of a multi-university team that received $249,000 in funding from National Leadership Grants for Libraries for a project titled "Demonstrating Your Data: An Evidence-based Practice Curriculum for School Librarians." The goals of the project are to pinpoint school librarians’ current evidence-based practice (EBP) knowledge and activities, as well as identify their challenges and best practices in using EBP. Based on the findings, the team plans to design a professional development curriculum to support secondary school librarians in their efforts to incorporate EBP into their professional practice. The curriculum will culminate in a freely accessible online EBP learning tool.

Moving forward, Cahill wants to use the Demonstrating Your Data project to help school librarians in other settings.

“A natural extension of this project would be a similar undertaking focused on elementary school librarians,” Cahill said. “We anticipate applying for IMLS funding in the future to continue this line of work.”

To learn more about IMLS and the work it funds, visit

These projects were made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Award Numbers LG-254856-OLS-23 and RE-254834-OLS-23.

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