Thanks to a $242,000 National Leadership Grant for Libraries from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Madison Public Library will be able to effectively measure its programs’ impact and serve as a model for other U.S. libraries to do the same.


The “Librarian’s Toolkit for Digital Observation, Assessment, and Analysis” project will create and pilot a toolkit for librarians to digitally collect, organize, and analyze qualitative, observational data on creative programming for all ages in libraries of varying sizes and capacities. It will also design a model to disseminate these tools to other public libraries nationwide.

The project will result in a framework for consistent cycles of observation and reflection to help libraries demonstrate their ability to support learning through hands-on experiential programs.

Local partners Skokie Public Library (Ill.) and Waupaca Public Library (Wis.) will help test the model in differently sized libraries, and national organizations Public Library Association and Maker Ed will help disseminate the findings and toolkit when complete.

“We’ve been working on creative ways to capture the amazing learning that is happening in our spaces and with our partners for a long time,” said Project Leader Rebecca Millerjohn. “It is really exciting and encouraging that IMLS believes in us and sees the potential for this work so libraries across the country can better share their impact.”

Millerjohn co-led a previous National Leadership Grant-funded project in partnership with the UW-Madison iSchool and School of Education centered around interactive learning. The new grant builds on the work formerly done with the library’s nationally recognized arts and maker program, The Bubbler.

“Madison Public Library is recognized at a national level for its innovation and emphasis on community-driven programming and initiatives,” said Madison Public Library Director Greg Mickells. “We’re honored to advance the work in this field, to be able to contribute to the library profession on a national scale, and to use this work to better serve our library visitors.”

The Bubbler has been partially funded through a variety of grants and Madison Public Library Foundation donations.