Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Purdue Libraries Named 2013 Recipient of IMLS Sparks! Ignition Grant for web-based Help System

September 26th, 2013

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN — Two Purdue University Libraries Faculty, Ilana Barnes, assistant professor and business information specialist and Tao Zhang, assistant professor and digital user experience specialist, were recently awarded  2013 Sparks! Ignition Grants to jointly develop a web-based help system, “CrowdAsk” for academic libraries. Sparks! Ignition Grants are administered through the federal agency, Institute of Museum and Library Services, IMLS.  The grant award totals $23,831 with an additional match of $5,480.   

This grant supports Barnes’ and Zhang’s research will be applied and tested within the Purdue Libraries to inform the profession.  The project involves building an interactive and shared knowledge base for library service and resources. It will also allow students, faculty and the university community to be embedded in the process and improve students’ information literacy skills

Reference help from librarians has been an integral part of services from academic libraries, but the shift to digital has left gaps in services. The new system will allow users (particularly undergraduate students) to ask open questions related to library service and resources. The user community including librarians, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and other research staff will review, revise and propose answers to the question. Answers can be voted and ranked by the user community. The user community can also edit the questions and answers to keep the help content up-to-date.  

About Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries and Museums   Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries and Museums are small grants that encourage libraries and museums to test and evaluate innovations in the ways they operate and the services they provide. Sparks! grantees demonstrate innovation and broad potential impact, often turning turn small investments of funds into nationally significant projects.


Ilana Barnes, MSI, Assistant Professor of Library Science, Business Information Specialist, Purdue University Libraries –

Tao Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor of Library Science, Digital User Experience Specialist, Purdue University Libraries –