IMLS Convenings Focus on Learning Spaces, STEM

By Maura Marx
Deputy Director for Library Services, IMLS

Editor’s Note: IMLS recently hosted a series of three strategic priority meetings, each focused on a different priority. The sessions were designed to help inform future strategies, particularly for the agency’s National Leadership Grant program. The first, held at the New York Public Library on April 29, examined national digital initiatives. The second, held at the San Francisco Public Library on May 15, addressed learning spaces in libraries, and the third, held at the Chicago Public Library on June 5, focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Over the past few months, we’ve been processing the rich commentary of our colleagues, fellow funders, and subject experts from our strategic priority meetings this past spring. Following discussion of the national digital platform in April, our conversations turned to learning spaces in libraries in May and to STEM in June. These two convenings offered several overlapping strands of thought.

At the learning spaces in libraries convening in San Francisco, our discussion examined maker spaces, learning labs and digital commons—any and all library spaces that enable participatory learning. We delved deeply into connected learning, partnerships, and evaluation of the types of learning happening in these informal spaces. The Bay Area Maker Faire provided a fantastic backdrop to our conversation and we were thrilled to be able to draw on the expertise of a fantastic group of colleagues from public, state, and academic libraries, the research community, library schools, associations, nonprofits and other funders.

Next, at the STEM learning in libraries convening in Chicago, we shared existing models of informal STEM learning and discussed the challenges of scale, content expertise, and diversity. Again, we heard recurring themes of hooks and triggers for youth, the role of mentors, and the importance of co-design.

Several related takeaways emerged:

First and foremost, we heard continuous questions about the library workforce and the facilitation, technology, and community building skills that are needed to support youth and STEM programming. Should librarians have these skills? If yes, how do they go about learning them? If no, can partnerships alone fill the gaps? If somewhere in the middle: how are library schools adapting to the shift toward participatory learning, and how does that extend to continuing education for library professionals? Participants also expressed a need for national platforms to share best practices learned through initiatives such as the Learning Labs, supported by IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation.

We wrestled continuously with the subject of evaluation. One funder called on the library community to help shape new measures and outcomes that would truly describe the valuable learning happening in our spaces. We discussed digital badges at length as a potential solution for sharing competencies across formal and informal learning contexts. We agreed that we’ll need to research and work on developing measures that won’t interrupt the flow of informal learning.

Convening videos and notes are posted here—please take a look! All three IMLS Focus meetings have helped inform priorities in this year’s National Leadership Grants program. Please note that we’ve added an October 2014 deadline and are working on a streamlined application process. We’re incorporating a preliminary proposal into our application process so that applicants will find out, before doing the work of putting together a complete application package, whether or not their proposal is most closely aligned with the agency’s funding priorities. The preliminary proposal process has many benefits. Because of the shorter format, applicants invest less time upfront, still get feedback early on, and have better “odds” for funding when submitting full proposals.  We look forward to seeing how this new system works, and we thank everyone involved in IMLS Focus for their thoughtful contributions.

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

Children’s Museum Takes Different Approach on Childhood Obesity

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted on To view the original post, click here

Posted by Mary Murphy, The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast on August 08, 2014

A generation ago, kids were outside playing in their yards, in their neighborhoods, and on the local playgrounds. Physical activity was limitless as kids played freeze tag, ran around in the sprinklers, and swam in the pool until the street lights came on, when it was time to go home. Imagination is what inspired “play.”

Today, with all the technology that’s been developed, it’s hard for kids not to be entranced by video games, tablets, and other electronics that can make them much more sedentary and less fit. So how do we ensure our kids stay active and healthy? It’s a question that has been posed frequently for the past several years.

Through Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens, museums, zoos, gardens, science and technology centers can answer the call to action by launching community efforts to help create a healthier generation of kids. The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast is tackling the issue of childhood obesity, and has gone the extra mile to fight it.

The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast, located in Jensen Beach, FL opened in 2008, and our staff felt the need to go beyond a pen and paper approach to teaching kids about good nutrition, staying active and making healthy choices.

Kids at the Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast climb the 10-foot carrot play structure, inspired by Spiffy's Once Upon A Farm

Kids at the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast climb the 10-foot carrot play structure, inspired by Spiffy’s Once Upon A Farm


Our prime area focusing on wellness and nutrition is our 1000-square foot interactive garden. “Spiffy the Grasshopper” has quickly become the favorite mascot of the garden. Who is Spiffy?  He comes from Spiffy’s Once Upon A Farm children’s book series created by Nancy Erlick. His goal is to teach kids how to live a healthy balanced lifestyle. He uses his balance board as a tool to help kids “get on board” with choosing good healthy foods. Spiffy’s Once Upon A Farm creates an early, positive association for children to get excited about healthy habits, physical fitness, and having fun in the process. We teamed up with the Martin Memorial Health Foundation and private donor David Smythe to install play structures based on depictions from Spiffy’s Once Upon A Farm. Kids can climb the 10-foot carrot and slide down the 15 foot squash slide, having fun while getting fit and physical.

Another tactic The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast has used is our pizza garden, where we show kids how to grow vegetables such as eggplant, onions, tomatoes, and radishes—the children have even made their own salsa and pizza from the garden. The Children’s Museum’s Adventures In Nutrition program, which thousands of students have participated in since 2009, includes exploration of the pizza garden and lessons focusing on nutrition, food groups, serving size, and the importance of making healthy choices. The Junior League of Martin County has also partnered with the museum through its national Kids in the Kitchen project to teach children how to make healthy snacks.

Kids play on the 15-foot squash slide

Kids play on the 15-foot squash slide

“We take the issue of childhood obesity very seriously,” stated Tammy Calabria, the museum’s executive director. “The Children’s Museum is very proud to have found a unique approach to fighting this epidemic, and we anticipate coming up with more wonderful ideas to keep kids fit in a way that’s fun for them.”

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | Leave a comment

CFPB Offers Free Materials and Other Resources for Libraries

By Dan Rutherford,
Senior Content Specialist, CFPB Office of Financial Education

Program ideas, electronic and print resources, and marketing materials are now available free from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Back in April, when we announced our Community Financial Education Project alongside our national partners, IMLS, American Library Association, FINRA Investor Education Foundation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and others, we talked about our five strategies to help make libraries the go-to place in every community for financial information and help. Today, we are happy to announce that we have taken the first steps in implementing these strategies by providing the following resources:

Free print materials – Order more than 20 free publications from the CFPB, Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Department of Labor. Libraries can order up to 200 copies of each publication in English and Spanish. If you need to order more than 200, email us at

Program ideas – Every month, the CFPB will provide a few different program ideas from us, our partners and other libraries. We’ll also suggest people and organizations in your community that can help present or spread the word about the program, as well as websites and other materials you can use in your program.

Partnership guide – This 22-page guide was developed with input from librarians. The guide explains how local partners can help present or support programs, and walks you through the selection and planning processes.

Links and web resources – We reviewed and selected about 50 financial literacy websites, videos, and courses using a set of guidelines consistent with the National Strategy for Financial Capability and content selection guidelines of other national and international financial literacy organizations. Then, we sorted these sites into core links, fun sites, videos and courses.

Marketing materials – Download social media share graphics and web banners you can place on your website or share with patrons. You can also preview the posters, bookmarks and displays that will be available for bulk delivery soon.

Librarian training – Every month we’ll offer a one-hour webinar on a variety of financial literacy topics. We just did our first webinar earlier this month and recently posted the recording. We will also provide a list of upcoming webinars. The live webinars will provide updates on our progress, and opportunities for questions and answers. The webinars will also be recorded and archived for viewing anytime. We may also be able to schedule in-person trainings and presentations for larger groups of librarians. Write us at for more information.

Other CFPB resources

Of course, librarians are welcome to use or refer patrons to the many other tools and resources available from the CFPB, including:

Ask CFPB – This database of consumer questions and answers covers most financial products, including mortgages, credit cards, student loans, prepaid cards, money transfers, credit reports, credit scores and more.

Submit a complaint – Consumers can submit complaints about a consumer financial product or service. The CFPB will forward the complaint to the company and work to get a response from them. If another government agency would be better able to assist, CFPB will forward the complaint to that agency and let you know. Visit our website or call 855-411-CFPB (2372). The CFPB’s contact centers can assist consumers in over 180 languages.

Consumer Complaint Database – This database lists consumers’ complaints about financial products and services (without personal information) and allows the public to know what is being complained about and why. Consumers can filter data based on specific search criteria; aggregate data in various ways, such as by complaint type, issuer, location, date, or any combination of available variables; and download data.

Paying For College – It is more important than ever for students and former students to make smart decisions about financing their college education. Whether patrons are attending college soon, a current student, or already have student loans, the CFPB has put together some tools and resources to help them make the best decisions.

Free CFPB Publications – The CFPB has free financial education materials in English and Spanish. These include brochures, bookmarks, fact sheets, fliers, worksheets, and posters.

Tell us what you think, or share your ideas 

As we said, these are our first steps in providing the financial education support you and other librarians said you wanted. So add the CFPB Library Resources page to your favorites. Then, tell us what you think. We welcome your feedback and suggestions in how we can serve you better.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Economic/Community Development, Workforce Development/Job Assistance | Leave a comment

Poets on Poets: Sojourner Ahebee

Ed note: This is a cross-post from the AYAW Blog.  You can find the original blog post here.

Photo of National Student Poet Sojourner Ahebee

Inaugural National Student Poet and Northeast representative, Claire Lee, returns to the AYAW blog to interview the 2013 Class of National Student Poets for her “Poets on Poets” series.

This week’s interview is with National Student Poet and Midwest Representative, Sojourner Ahebee!

Claire Lee: Hi! How have you been?

Sojourner Ahebee: Claire! OMG, hay gurl hayyyy! I’ve been good, summer’s been a blast.

CL: It’s so good to see you, well, at least through Google+ Hangout. Ok, let’s jump right in—what were some major events during the NSPP year for you?

SA: One of the biggest events was the appointment ceremony in D.C. We were recognized, and it sort of set the precedent of the rest of the year. It really got us excited and hyped for the year as National Student Poets. Also, the Academy of American Poets in New York gave us a first-hand experience with published, recognized poets in our country—it was really humbling and really great to be there.

CL: Wow, seems like there were a lot of major events this year! Yes, I’m going to be that person and ask you which was your favorite highlight…So, what was your favorite thing about being a National Student Poet?

SA: Well, there were two major things. First off, my year as a National Student Poet really got me to see myself outside of my own writing…What I mean is I was always so focused on being a poet, seeing my own work on the page, but this program really opened my eyes and helped me see poems in other narratives within my own community. More specifically, working at the nursing home with the Alzheimer’s patients allowed me to see the role of my work outside of itself. And two, is just the friendship of this year’s class and last year’s. It’s been great to be around other people who love what I love. The love is real!

CL: Awwww, we love you too, Sojo! What are some of the National Student Poets Program-related events you’ve been doing this summer?

SA: In early June, I conducted a series of virtual poetry workshops with my old school in Cote D’Ivoire, in Africa. We chose a theme, and the theme was home—essentially, how you see your home. We also used spoken word poetry as a vehicle for that, so we created our own spoken word poems and watched some spoken word performances via YouTube. Another event was the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. This festival has been around for the past ten years or so and features more than 200 speakers from around the country and the world—like Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Beaux Willimon (the creator of the TV show House of Cards). So basically all these speakers bring all of their big ideas. The Aspen Institute invited us to attend the event. We weren’t featured speakers, but we got to listen in on various panels and seminars.

CL: Wow, that sounds amazing—how was it?

SA: It was really fun and super inspiring. I didn’t even know all these artists were involved in so many underground activities. Actually, one of my favorite actresses, Alfre Woodard, is involved the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities’ Turnaround Arts Initiative, where she goes into specific schools and tries to turnaround their arts programs. It was just inspiring, and it got me thinking how I could use my art in other ways (like education reform).

CL: That sounds like a lot of things were going on this year. What was the biggest challenge for you?

SA: For me, I guess it was scheduling and making sure things happened on the dates I wanted them to happen. For example, I started my poetry workshops in mid-January, during the worst weather this year, especially with the polar vortex. It was the biggest obstacle for us because we were so excited to just jump into the workshop. But other than that, everything was just seamless.

CL: Since it’s summer, any summer reading recommendations? What are you currently reading right now?

SA: I’m reading this book right now; it’s called My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki, and it’s literally the best book I’ve read in a long time. So yeah, I definitely recommend it!


The President’s Committee on the Arts and the HumanitiesInstitute of Museum and Library Services and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers partner to present the National Students Poets Program, the country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work. Each year, five National Student Poets are selected through the prestigious Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for a year of service as poetry ambassadors, each representing a different region of the country.


Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Cultural Heritage/Sustainability, Education Support, Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational, Meet the National Student Poets | Leave a comment