Creating STEM Based Programs in Your Library

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Tezeno Roberson is the District Manager of the Dallas Public Library and wrote an absorbing article for the Journal of Library Administration entitled “STEM”-ulating Young Minds: Creating Science-Based Programming @ Your Library.”

The article focused on the little the library did have and the big things they did with it. The library had a successful summer reading club that led to an even more successful partnership between the library and a local non profit science organization. The University of Texas at Dallas worked directly with Roberson in creating a curriculum that would comprise of the summer program and other community partners such as Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Dallas Graduates of the Last Decade (IEEE Dallas GOLD). Roberson was able to demonstrate a shared vision and showed the mutual benefits of a partnership which made securing the organization’s buy-in easier. Together the partners created a unique “science discovery camp,” now in its third year (as of 2015, the publication date of article). The camp introduces middle-school-aged students to basic science concepts, actively engages them in creative experiments, and uses fun competitions to test scientific theories.

As we know STEM (and STEAM) programming has been trending in libraries for at least five years but the reality is part of that is in response to major cuts in national, state, and local funding for school programs, most specifically in STEM. Roberson focused on taking the model of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week (that of showcasing all of the great digital resources and services that are available to teens to help succeed in school and prepare for college and 21st century careers) and stretching that concept to three months. The programs were targeted to tweens with a total of 36 that participated. They also had 12 volunteers helped run the programs and each of the programs were stand alone programs, there were three programs for a duration of three hours each.

The article focused on the steps involved BEFORE the implementation of the programs, while it didn’t go into great detail about what the programs looked like it helped provide you with an understanding of what steps you may need to go though to develop STEM programs.

Step by step

  1. Conceive of program
  2. Identify possible partners in your community that may offer some of the programs or may help with funding. Demonstrate a shared vision and showed the mutual benefits of a partnership which made securing the organization’s buy-in easier
  3. Identify goals and outcomes
  4. How will program(s) be funded? Identify funder(s)
  5. Develop the curriculum with the partners
  6. Identify the location for programs, if programs are in the library does the library have enough space?
  7. Identify the maximum number of participants. Will teens register ahead of time or will the program be drop in?
  8. Promote the programs to get attendance. Go beyond the library, reach out schools, outside organizations, other partners, etc.
  9. Create an evaluation for the participants to share their thoughts and what they learned
  10. Evaluate the program’s success or not and think of ways to possibly better the program. Also base your evaluation on your goals and outcomes; were they met?
  11. Share out your best practices maybe on the YALSA Blog or write an article so others can learn and benefit from your work

How can you create STEM (STEAM) programming in your library? Who’s doing what and where?

Chattanooga Public Library had a program called “Dev Dev” (Developing Developers), in which teens  learned to code HTML, Python, and CSS and played with robotics.

How to Create Robust STEM Library program, webinar and resources from Kitsap Regional Library

YALSA Stem Resources

Case Studies-Carnegie Library Making Noise at the Library and more

Maker Jawn at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Emerging Best Practices for Marker Programming in Libraries

Talking points: Libraries and STEM

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