As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative resources for use in a variety of settings. This project, "STEM Learning in Libraries: A National Conference on Needs, Opportunities, and Future Directions," brings together libraries, informal educators and STEM education and research organizations to discuss the role of libraries in STEM out-of-school time (OST) education, share existing programs, define library needs, and develop a research and evaluation agenda. To date, there has not been systematic exploration of the ways that STEM programming occurs in libraries nor of their effectiveness when they do happen. This will be the first conference of its kind and stands to have a high degree of visibility and the potential for broad impact. Principal Investigator Paul Dusenbery, Director of the National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) and Executive Director of Space Science Institute, will lead an experienced project team that includes Co-PI Keliann LaConte, Lunar Planetary Institute; Susan Brandehoff, Public Programs Office, American Library Association; and Anne Holland, NCIL. The conference sessions will be organized around four strands: (1) showcasing successful STEM programs and reviewing research and evaluation results on informal STEM learning in public libraries; (2) examining the current needs, barriers, and opportunities of public libraries; (3) elucidating the possible future roles of public libraries in the 21st Century; and (4) identifying promising practices and strategies. Beginning with core members comprised of the project team and organizing committees, the project will create a Leadership Forum for library directors, library science educators, and policy makers, as well as STEM professionals and educators. Conference results will be disseminated through a wide variety of organizational websites: NCIL, ALA, LPI, the conference website, the STAR_Net online community, and CAISE. In 2010, there were nearly 1.6 billion visits to 17,000 public libraries. Library audiences are true reflections of the nation's population - they serve all races, ages, economic backgrounds, and regions of the country. The STEM Learning in Libraries conference will give public libraries, STEM organizations, informal educators, and funders an opportunity to begin a dialogue with implications for profoundly impacting the attitudes of millions of Americans toward STEM topics.
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 1413783
Funding Amount: 249346
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