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The Lyrasis Catalyst Fund 2024 cycle is now open! The Catalyst Fund is an award program that provides support for ideas and projects advancing the mission and reach of Lyrasis member organizations. It expands opportunities to explore, test, refine and collaborate on projects with the potential for community-wide impact.

In 2024, the Catalyst Fund is expanding the applicant pool to include public libraries. Customers of The Palace Project, BiblioBoard or the Indie Author Project are invited to apply.

The Catalyst Fund seeks two types of applications — proposals and ideas. A proposal requests funds to administer your own project. If submitting an idea, you are recommending an issue, problem, service need or solution that Lyrasis could investigate, test and address. Your organization would not be obligated to participate in the resulting program, service or solution.

This year, we are seeking proposals under two themes… First, we are accepting proposals for a traditional innovation theme, open to qualifying institutions that wish to explore a new concept to benefit the field, build from an existing project for expansion or create partnerships with previous awardees to continue to develop their work. The second theme is a public library theme, centered around five issues: accessibility, expansion of services to rural areas, making banned books accessible and navigating the politics in rural communities, local cities and towns.

Leigh Grinstead, the Catalyst Fund program lead, said of this year’s cycle, “There are so many creative solutions to the issues that we share in our field. The Catalyst Fund is an opportunity to see the passion and energy that so many bring to their jobs every day in every community, large and small, whether public, private, academic, non-profit or civic. This year, we're expanding our applicant pool to reach additional library institutions, particularly public libraries. We have a good track record funding academic libraries and their innovative projects. As the program lead, I see how many of those projects could be applied and used by other communities, public libraries particularly. We want the Catalyst Fund to be accessible and inclusive and for organizations to see themselves within these projects and submit their own proposals and ideas.” 

Let’s take a quick look at some past Catalyst Fund recipients for examples of projects with community-wide and cross-institutional impact.

In 2018, the Healey Library of the University of Massachusetts - Boston received a Catalyst Fund award to support its proposal “Video and Online Instructional Modules to Empower Libraries to Lead Participatory Archiving Events." The funds supported the Mass. Memories Road Show, a statewide, event-based participatory archiving program that documents people, places and events in Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories. The success of the Road Show led to the development of a larger project, RoPA — the Roadmap for Participatory Archiving — an online resource to guide libraries and cultural organizations through collaborating with community members to plan participatory archiving events and to create digital collections. RoPA is supported by an Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant. 

Carolyn Goldstein of UMB said, "the funding we received to create a video and develop training materials in support of the Mass. Memories Road Show moved us forward in thinking about how to make our implicit knowledge about participatory archiving explicit to people outside of our immediate team. The experience most definitely enabled us to envision a next step and broader audience, and in that way most definitely catalyzed the project that ultimately became RoPA."

In 2019 the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library received an award for their proposal, “Using Linked Open Data for Georgia’s Natural, Cultural and Historic Organizations’ Disaster Response." The goal was to create a publicly editable directory of Georgia’s Natural, Cultural and Historical Organizations (NCHs), allowing for quick retrieval of location and contact information for disaster response. Directory information was compiled, updated and uploaded to Wikidata, the linked open data database from the Wikimedia Foundation. Directory information was then delivered via a website, allowing emergency responders to quickly search for NCHs in disaster areas. A website would also be created that can display embedded subsets of the directory for emergency responders.

The 2019 Georgia project inspired the volunteers at The Cultural & Historic Resources Task Force (CHR) in Colorado to try something similar. They believed that by using a similar structure, they could initially share cultural information in response to a state or federally declared emergency while the Incident Command System is in place. CHR is often called on to participate as part of the ICS during disasters, and the database is now being used to help with recovery calls. Carl Stewart of the CHR said of the project, “First inspired by Clint Landis’ and Christine Wiseman’s FAIC presentation of their GaNCH project, we embarked on our own project to map Colorado’s cultural resources. It was an honor to be one of the first states (if not the first) to use their project as a model for our own project. We read the articles they published, consulted their extensive documentation on GitHub and met regularly with Clint and Christine over the course of our project.” 

What could you and your institution accomplish with an award from the Catalyst Fund this year? Learn more about the Catalyst Fund and how to apply. 

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