University of Kentucky’s iSchool Receives IMLS Funding to Investigate Storytimes for School Readiness

Sept. 20, 2017 (Lexington, KY) - The University of Kentucky was awarded more than $350,000 in grant funding by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to investigate public library storytime programs’ support of school readiness of young children.

The three-year, $393,876 project begins on December 1, 2017 and is a part of IMLS’s National Leadership Grant for Libraries, which “supports projects that address challenges faced by the library and archive fields and that have the potential to advance library and archival practice with new tools, research findings, models, services, or alliances that can be widely replicated.”

Public libraries are uniquely positioned to provide rich learning opportunities that support school readiness through programs with high quality language environments for young children and their caregivers; however, there is little empirical evidence to demonstrate the extent to which storytime programs, a cornerstone of public library programming efforts, provide supportive environments to prepare children for academic success nor to understand the extent to which they meet the needs of parents and early childhood educators.

“The overarching goal of this project is to conduct research on storytimes that is both informed by practitioners and informative for their practice,” said Maria Cahill, associate professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky, who will serve as principal investigator of the grant.

In collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, the State Library of Indiana, and the State Library of Ohio, Cahill and co-investigators, Soohyung Joo, assistant professor in the School of Information Science, and Mary Howard, research and development associate in the Human Development Institute at the University of Kentucky, will work with 36 public libraries across three states to observe interactions between librarians, children, and adult participants.

Complementary to the investigation of storytimes, the team also intends to explore the needs and expectations of parents, child care providers, librarians, and library administrators in relation to storytime and other programs and services aimed at young children.

“This study will employ multiple methods to investigate different aspects of storytimes, such as structured observation, content analysis, surveys, textual analysis, and hierarchical linear modeling,” said Joo. 

The project will produce findings that will be useful and applicable to librarians across a wide spectrum of public libraries in the United States.

Cahill said, “It will provide data to support the value of public library storytimes for school readiness and community building, as well as information to help librarians tailor storytimes and other programs and services to meet the needs of various stakeholders.”

Year one of the three-year project will focus on data collection. The team will video record 72 storytime sessions and administer two surveys; one to parents and caregivers and one to librarians. They will also administer a survey to public library directors, conduct interviews with librarians who provide storytime programs, and conduct focus group interviews with child care providers from a variety of early care settings. Based on findings and a comprehensive needs assessment, the team will develop guidelines and digital learning modules to train librarians and other community program providers.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

An independent, federal agency, the Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grantmaking, policy development and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more about the Institute, please visit or follow us on Twitter @US_IMLS.

About the School of Information Science

The School of Information Science in the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky, a part of the iSchools consortium, is a unit of nearly 50 scholars, educators, staff, and advisors dedicated to the preparation and academic excellence of information professionals. The School offers a M.S. in Library Science, School Library Certification, M.S. in Information Communication Technology, a graduate certificate in Instructional Communication, a B.A./B.S. in Information Communication Technology and an undergraduate minor in Information Studies. For more information, visit: