Bringing Together Public Libraries and STEM

By Sandra Toro
Senior Library Program Officer, IMLS

As an IMLS program officer, I know that STEM learning is happening in public libraries all across the country. I am excited to be joining fellow program officer, Timothy Owens, at the first Public Libraries & STEM conference at the Denver Public Library.

There is so much to learn about what, exactly, makes for successful learning, and interest in STEM research and education has grown exponentially among the library and informal STEM fields. A new report, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, shows that STEM learning happens over time and across a range of settings (including libraries) during “dynamic interactions.” The report also documents that successful out-of-school learning contributes to interest in and understanding of STEM; helps young people connect with one another and caring adult role models; helps reduce the achievement gap between young people from low-income families and those from high-income families. Last year, at the Chicago Public Library, IMLS held a convening of library and informal STEM professionals who shared information about existing models of informal learning and discussed the challenges of scale, content expertise, and diversity.

The upcoming Public Libraries & STEM taking place at the Denver Public Library and other sites around downtown Denver will be a groundbreaking event. The conference was put together by Keliann LaConte, from the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and Paul Dusenbery, from the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) with funding from the National Science Foundation. Working with a national organizing committee that includes representatives from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Queens Library, Oregon State University, the Estherville Public Library, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, and other organizations committed to successful STEM learning, Paul and Keliann have put together an ambitious agenda for the conference.

Spanning three days, the conference program is designed to foster collaborations among library leaders, STEM professionals, informal science educators and researchers, evaluators, funders, and policy makers. They will explore promising practices, help define a new 21st century vision of STEM learning in public libraries, and develop a foundation for a future evaluation and research agenda for libraries and partner institutions. IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Timothy Owens and I will be participating in panels focused on helping library professionals learn more about funding opportunities as well as how to reach out to underserved populations.

If you cannot participate in person, please check out the background reports that are currently available on the conference website. These reports highlight research in how people learn through out-of-school-time (OST) experiences, the importance of collective impact, lessons learned about how to better engage audiences that libraries are serving, and the ways libraries are continuing to evolve to meet their community’s needs. And be on the lookout for tweets and future blog posts from us about lessons learned at the conference!

Sandra Annette Toro, Ph.D., is a Senior Program Officer in the Office of Library Services and a member of the Public Libraries & STEM National Organizing Committee.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Afterschool/Out-of-School, Education Support, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment

Digital Archival Research and Education

By Trevor Owens, Senior Program Officer
Emily Reynolds, Program Specialist
Office of Library Services, IMLS

Recently, the two of us were thrilled to attend and participate in the Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), hosted by the University of Maryland, College Park, last month. Now in its seventh year, AERI brings together doctoral students, recent doctoral graduates, and faculty in archival studies. The institute has been supported by two Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grants since its inception. We wanted to take a moment to share some of what we presented, as well as how the various areas of work discussed at the event connect to IMLS grant opportunities. As our portfolios of work at IMLS are focused on the national digital platform priority, our comments primarily focus on how work at AERI intersects with this area; however, there are certainly opportunities for archives in other IMLS programs and priority areas as well.

Exterior shot of the University of Maryland’s Hornbake Library.

The University of Maryland’s Hornbake Library. Photo by Justin Grimes.

Archival Studies and IMLS Grant Opportunities

We participated in a panel discussion with three colleagues from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access about funding opportunities for work on archival practice and research on archives. We highlighted the national digital platform priority area in the National Leadership Grants for Libraries Program and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program as potential sources of funding for the kind of work being presented at AERI. The former program has supported a range of research and development projects for archives and the latter has supported a number of education and training projects.  Our colleagues from the National Endowment for the Humanities primarily discussed the Research and Development program, Preservation and Access Education and Training program and the new Common Heritage program.

Collecting, Preserving and Enabling Use of Digital Content

Across the various sessions at AERI, many touched on research related to digital materials that have a natural place in the national digital platform portfolio. There were sessions on a variety of digital topics, including digital preservation, archival description and web archiving, research on digital archives, access to born digital archival content, collecting, preserving, and understanding and interpreting social media content. View the full meeting agenda here.

Education and Training for Digital Archivists

Alongside the research on display at the meeting, there were several sessions that focused on education and training for archivists, including formal curriculum development. Efforts in this area could logically connect with the national digital platform portfolio through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program which funds activities including master’s programs, doctoral programs, and curriculum development. For a sense of some of the work going on in this area within the AERI community, see the sessions on archival training in the digital age, developing AV archives curriculum and on curriculum for archival studies master’s degree programs.

In short, it was great to have a chance to learn about the various kinds of work that archival studies researchers and archivists are doing in this area. We were particularly excited to see how the grants that AERI has received through the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program are fostering a community of researchers exploring these issues together, and look forward to more great work from this group.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Information Infrastructure/Systems/Workflows, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), National Leadership Grants | Leave a comment

Convening Communities for Good: On the Frontier of 3D Printing for Accessible Education

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted by the Benetech’s Blog. To view the original post, click here.

By Lisa Wadors Verne, Program Manager, Education Research and Partnerships for Benetech Labs and Global Literacy

The rise of 3D printing technology and its increasing availability in schools, libraries, and museums presents new opportunities to improve learning and accessibility in a variety of educational contexts. Benetech was therefore delighted to convene the first major national forum of its kind devoted solely to the topic of 3D printing for accessible educational materials.

Held last week at the Tech Museum of innovation in San Jose, the three-day national meeting brought together over forty-five practitioners and end users in the fields of 3D printing technology and services, accessible education, tactile learning modalities, library and museum services, and educational content. The purpose of the meeting was to survey and understand existing efforts at the intersection of 3D printing and education, and identify ways in which makerspaces and 3D printing resources can transform the educational experience of students with disabilities.

Participants sitting in a circle brainstorming

Brainstorming in action!

3D-printed models provide an affordable alternative to purely visual images and therefore offer students across the widest range of learner variability a tactual mode of understanding spatial concepts. Why is this important? Because a significant number of educational materials, especially in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines, are heavily visual, requiring students to gain much of the information from resources such as charts, graphs, diagrams, maps, photographs, and other images. This content, however, poses challenges for students with visual impairments and others who may have difficulty processing visual information. 3D-printed objects, which can be explored tactually, provide these students with an alternative means to perceiving the content. 3D objects also enable teachers to put in their students’ hands and better understand things that are “too large, too small, too fragile, too valuable/ rare, or too dangerous.”

The national meeting we convened last week was made possible thanks to a 2014 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS awarded Benetech this grant to identify new ways in which 3D printing technology in libraries and museums can be used to improve learning and accessibility, particularly in STEM disciplines. This 3D Printing for Education project builds upon our DIAGRAM Center’s research into ways in which 3D printing technology can be applied to create accessible educational materials.

A woman and boy having a discussion

So many great discussions took place

With this project, which we are pursuing through both the DIAGRAM Center and Benetech Labs, our goal is to make 3D models more available, discoverable, and usable in conjunction with textbooks and other curricular materials that teachers already use. To that end, we are building a network of collaborators that will help grow and sustain innovative 3D-printed learning tools. The participants at last week’s 3D national meeting represent the wide range of stakeholder communities with which Benetech has formed strong relationships: educators, students, publishers, accessibility experts, technology companies in the 3D printing space and STEM education space, as well as libraries, museums, and makerspaces.

The topics we explored together during the three-day meeting include challenges (technical, resource, and legal) and opportunities in 3D printing of accessible educational materials and in building maker communities; key accessibility gaps in existing technologies and strategies for bridging them; opportunities for collaboration; as well as success measures and how to evaluate progress in the field. The convening concluded with a Design Day, on which a group of designers joined us for a “3D printing hackathon” focused on designing models that will be included in a collection of exemplary STEM 3D printable objects. As this is one of our broader 3D Printing for Education project deliverables, the files of the select models will be optimized for printing to demonstrate and measure the value of 3D-printed objects as tools for accessible STEM education. Check out participants’ photos and posts from the event, and follow the continued conversation on Twitter at #3dA11y.

A group photo of the 3D Forum attendees

3D Forum Attendees

We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to IMLS for making our 3D Printing for Education project and last week’s national forum possible; to the Tech Museum for hosting us; to all our partners and collaborators whose contributions have made the national meeting a success; and to all the participants for their great engagement and input. Over the coming months, we will share more information about the results of the meeting and of our entire 3D Printing for Education project. Stay tuned for updates via the Benetech Blog and the DIAGRAM Center Blog.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Accessibility, Education Support, Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Leave a comment