NEH Wants Your Proposal

Article excerpt

Cab Calloway demonstrated his hide-ho style during a public lecture at Fisk University Library. . . Some 2,000 Central Valley residents participated in an all-day discussion of "Hill People in the Valley: Hmong and Mien Refugees in Merced, California" at the Merced College Library. . . Rural Vermonters gathered to talk about "Women in Literature" at the Montpelier Public Library. . . . Devotees of Baker Street attended a two-day conference on "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota" at the Radisson Metrodome in Minneapolis.

All these events occurred within Humanities Projects in Libraries programs recently funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities General Programs Division. That division is only one of many NEH grant-awarding entities: the endowment also awards funds through its research, education, state, and fellowships and seminars divisions and the NEH challenge and planning and policy assessment offices.

When Congress created NEH in 1965, it declared that "the term 'humanities' includes, but is not limited to, the study of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism, and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life." Congress added that the endowment also supports programs using humanities disciplines to study the societal implications of science and technology.

The thousands of programs funded by NEH since 1965 have brought kudos and criticism. The New York Times once accused NEH of funding "artistic circuses," and librarians among others have been charged with contriving trivial programs to obtain funds. Most recipients, however, extol the benefits of NEH library programs. Ruth Hafter, director of the Sonoma State University Library and the Indochinese Cultures Project, says NEH gives libraries and librarians a wonderful opportunity to reach out to their communities and develop new resources for them. Susan Goldberg, deputy director of the Tucson Public Library, declares that NEH projects have changed the library's image (see box below). Next deadline March 8

Former library administrator Thomas Phelps is senior program officer for the NEH Humanities Projects in Libraries. Phelps wants more librarians to submit program proposals and share in the $3 million authorized by Congress for FY 1985. The next deadline for proposals is March 8; projects may begin as early as next September and cover one or two years.

"Libraries are a natural setting for the interpretation of literature, art, or other cultural works, or presenting an analysis of major historical events, figures, or ideas. What institution could do it better?" asks Phelps.

"Libraries have the resource materials for study and for learning. Humanities programs in libraries could increase the appreciation and use of library collections by the more than 130 million adult Americans," he adds.

Phelps welcomes proposals from all types of libraries serving adults--public, community coolege, university, and special. Many winning projects include libraries of several types: the Fisk University Learning Library program on the Black American Experience, for example, was cosponsored by the Public Library of Nashville and Davidson County. The college and public libraries of Merced, Modesto, Stockton, and Santa Rosa participated in the Sonoma State University Indonesian Cultures Project.

The endowment encourages applicants to consider new themes, test innovative ideas for presentation, and seek projects that can serve as models. Librarians who wake up one morning with ideas for adult programs using humanities materials in their collections should call Phelps right away, he says. …