Pushing the Limits: Making Sense of Science (PTL) is an NSF-funded program designed to build the capacity of rural and small libraries to enhance public understanding of science and math. The program provides professional support, technical assistance, and funding for librarians and local science partners to co-facilitate a series of science café-style guided public discussions with adult patrons using books and specially produced video segments. External evaluator Goodman Research Group, Inc. conducted the second formative evaluation, focusing on the professional development (PD) for the pilot librarians and on the implementation of the Limits programming in the 20 pilot libraries. GRG’s research design included online background and post-programming surveys for the 20 pilot librarians and their science partners, online professional development (PD) surveys for the librarians, and, at a sample of five libraries, a paper patron survey after one PTL event. Response rates for librarians were excellent (90-100%); rates for science partners were somewhat lower, but still very good (77-81%). Key Findings -The pilot libraries have fairly low staffing, volunteer, and STEM resources, but the pilot librarians are an accomplished and motivated group in terms of PD and adult programming experience. Only a third had prior experience with adult science programming, in contrast to their science partners, two-thirds of whom had similar experience. -Librarians rated the PD workshop very highly, particularly the materials and the workshop leaders. The majority reported the PD helped them develop competencies in planning, coordinating, and co-facilitating PTL programs. Several of the science partners went out of their way to compliment the webinar and materials provided for them. -Librarians and science partners reported great success in planning the PTL programming, engaging their audiences, and facilitating lively discussions. Some librarians noted the challenges of promoting PTL, especially to younger audiences. -PTL was very successful in engaging library patrons. The science partners, the audience discussion, and the videos were the most engaging components; the books were somewhat less appealing. -PTL was successful in drawing a crowd that was not necessarily already interested in STEM topics; about two-thirds did not have a great deal of pre-existing knowledge of or interest in STEM topics. -Patrons were extremely engaged by the PTL event, especially in terms of holding their interest and making them want to attend other similar programming; the event also piqued their interest in similar programming and topics. -Librarians made great strides in both ability and interest in facilitating future science programming. They were more confident in their science knowledge and their skills to help patrons locate science resources. Over three-quarters are very or extremely likely to continue facilitating adult science programming in their library. Most science partners reported being very or extremely likely to continue their involvement with public science programming based on their PTL experience. -Suggested improvements include selecting shorter books with more science content, giving greater emphasis to the videos, providing more marketing assistance, providing information and materials further in advance, and offering a means for the librarians to continue sharing ideas. Appendix includes surveys.
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
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