The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is a small grant-making agency which finances programs at 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums across the US. These programs provide vital resources that contribute significantly to Americans’ economic development, education, health, and well-being. All which facilitate family learning, catalyze community change, and stimulate economic development through job training and skills development.

From it’s grant awardees, the IMLS receives over 1000 hard-copy documents a year to process. They had compiled a backlog of 3000 forms, many over 3 years old. Previously, the IMLS did not know how to capture all the information from these hard-copy forms in a digital record while ensuring quality and completeness of the information. Furthermore, the IMLS needed a method to evaluate and quantify various methods of digital data extraction from hard-copy forms vs manual data entry. From September 2018 to March 2019, Xentity worked to improve the processing of the final grantee reports in order to provide internal and external stakeholders the ability to discover, query, analyze, and browse these materials more effectively.

Methodology Development and Processing Improvements

The IMLS receives about 1000 hard-copy documents a year to process. They were dealing with a 3-year old backlog of over 3000 forms from grant awardees. The IMLS did not know how to capture all the information from these hard-copy forms in a digital record. Also, they had trouble ensuring the quality and completeness of the information. Furthermore, the IMLS needed a method to evaluate and quantify various methods of digital data extraction from hard-copy forms vs manual data entry. 

The data capture of information from these forms was meant for the IMLS’s own staff reports.  These reports included grant outcomes, impact, books, evaluation or research reports, published or unpublished manuscripts or articles, findings, tools or instruments, promising practices, recorded images or sound, curriculum guides, workbooks, curriculum materials, objects, hardware or software, or other things created in an initiative.  The current methods of data capture were manual data entry. At the time, form information was manually entered into a database for the IMLS’s benefit. The IMLS knew it needed to automate form data extraction to create process efficiency. IMLS lacked the staff expertise to develop a data extraction solution. So they contracted Xentity in September of 2018 to conduct research and provide recommendations for an automated data extraction solutions.

Xentity was able to improve the processing of final hard-copy grantee reports, including the preparation of grantee-provided attachments/products for publishing on IMLS.gov. Xentity also recommended automated tools to improve how the agency records the results of grantees. Furthermore, they shared the products related to grant-supported projects with the public. Hence the importance of reexamining the IMLS’s data extraction and data entry methods. Ultimately, this work helped describe grantee projects and attachments. This ensured that internal and external stakeholders could discover, query, analyze, and browse such materials more effectively.

Expanded Access and Improved Processing

Through better processing of final hard-copy grantee reports, the IMLS moved through their backlog more efficiently. They also made their own efforts available to the public. These grants often result in products that are added on as an attachment to a grantee’s final report. Dissemination of the results of IMLS-funded projects further advanced the body of knowledge and professional practice in a several services.