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Two UT faculty members have received a $49,557 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to look at the role rural public libraries play in the economic development of the Appalachian region.

Associate Professor Bharat Mehra and Assistant Professor Wade Bishop, both of the School of Information Sciences within the College of Communication and Information, will lead the work.

The year-long project, which begins in October, will consist of two phases. The first task will be gathering data about the roles of rural public libraries from the small business and librarian staff. The second part will be drafting a blueprint of a public library small business tool kit. The project’s goal is to test and assess a strategy that could be used at regional and national levels.

“The Appalachian region faces tremendous economic and educational challenges,” said Mehra. “My experience working with rural libraries in the region leads me to believe we can successfully build a model to help rural libraries play a greater role in small business economic development by encouraging information literacy and access to much-needed information and technology resources.”

Grant partners include the Blount County Public Library, Clinch River Regional Library, Holston River Regional Library, and Sevier County Public Library System. The Tennessee State Library and Archives will assist in distribution of the survey and identification of interview participants. A letter of support was provided by the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce in Clinton, Tennessee.

IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Its mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Its grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit

C O N T A C T:

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,