Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

BROOKS MITCHELL

Space Science Institute, STAR Library Network, National Center for Interactive Learning
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 12:42 p.m.

    This video does a great job of making the case for libraries and learning centers, and footage of the workshops really gives a sense of how library staff are engaging in the workshops and learning about space science.

    I would be curious to learn more about what you have found about successes and challenges in the implementation of activities back in the libraries, and what you are learning about impact of the programs on the library participants.

    Thanks,
    Billy

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 08:08 p.m.

    Billy - thank you for the question and for viewing the video! Libraries are very uniquely poised to be places of STEM learning in the near and immediate future. They are inclusive, welcoming places where ALL learners of different backgrounds (geographic, racial, socioeconomic, etc.) have an equal chance to learn and grow. Traditionally, society has thought of informal STEM learning as something that happens primarily in museums, aquariums, zoos, and science centers. These institutions absolutely play an important role in their communities and can be pillars of learning; however, paid admission is a very big barrier to educational access in undeserved populations. 

    For more on the STEM in Libraries movement, I'd encourage you to check out our "STEM in Libraries" web page for research on why libraries are such pivotal members of the STEM community.

    One of the main challenges we see in our efforts to empower library staff to become STEM facilitators is that they don't envision themselves as STEM facilitators. We quite often hear sentiments such as, "I'm not a scientist, I can't teach about space!" They may view science as a collection of facts, rather than a way of thinking. Or they may think of engineering as an intense series of high-stake calculations, rather than a way of approaching a challenge (i.e., think, try, and do it again). During our NASA STEM Workshops, we focused less on content and more on facilitation styles, hands-on activities, partnership opportunities, and working with SMEs. Library staff are naturally inquisitive and have a unique opportunity to explore with and learn WITH their patrons (think of the "guide on the side" learning model) as opposed to telling their patrons information (think of the "sage on the stage" learning model).  Instead of just teaching them facts and statistics about space, it is more beneficial for us to empower library staff to work with their community to develop and implement programming that has a positive influence on all of their library patrons (again, which represent a wide swath of a community and not just those that can afford admission).

    I hope this answers your question - please feel free to follow up! I or a member of our team will address evaluation/impact assessment in a reply to the comments below.

     
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    Marilu Lopez Fretts
  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:45 a.m.

    Thanks Brooks, I agree that libraries have a really unique role to play, and I think there is potential for informal science centers to partner with libraries to help the staff become more comfortable as "STEM facilitators."

  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 01:10 p.m.

    You highlight many positive aspects of libraries in your video – I love the analogy of libraries as the “community living room”. Like Billy, I would like to hear about the successes and challenges surrounding the implementation of STEM programs in libraries. How do your workshops support librarians in engaging their publics in space science learning? How can you measure that success?

    Looking forward to hearing more!

    Margaret

  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 01:58 p.m.

    Thank you for your comment, Margaret! Yes, libraries are absolutely a common, central gathering space for all members of a community. They also do SO MUCH that isn't recognized by the public! Many of the libraries that we work with embrace "Cradle to Grave" learning philosophies, which means that they want to provide services and educate their community for their entire life. For more information on why we work with libraries and view them as such important educational institutions, I'd encourage you to visit our "STEM in Libraries" website

    Our workshops focus more on programmatic ideas, partnership opportunities, and hands-on activities, as opposed to a heavy content focus. Space science is a very complex topic, and we want the library staff that we work with to feel that they have the tools to help their library patrons find the answers - we don't expect the library staff to become subject matter experts! For each of these workshops, we reached out to local partners (in this case, the University of Wyoming Planetarium and Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium) to come and share resources and/or facilitate a "Night Sky Viewing." So, in essence, we are trying to give the library staff tools - resources, partnership opportunities, activities, etc. - to facilitate STEM programming...not necessarily the content knowledge! 

    The evaluation team for our NASA@ My Library Project, which includes much more than this series of workshops, is the Educational Development Center (EDC). (They have and will continue to conduct a wide range of evaluation on the numerous wings of this project.) For our NASA STEM Workshops, they are waiting to survey the library staff until after the they have facilitated their 2019 summer reading programs. In doing so, we are taking a look at "how well did these workshops prepare library staff to facilitate programs related to the 2019 summer reading theme?" as opposed to "how much participants enjoy the workshop?" We certainly love hearing that our attendees enjoyed the workshops; but, we'd much rather hear that attendees were ultimately empowered to facilitate space science programming!


     
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    Marilu Lopez Fretts
  • Icon for: Margaret Glass

    Margaret Glass

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 11:34 a.m.

    Thanks for the clarification, Brooks! I look forward to following the results of the 2019 summer reading program when they become available.

    Margaret

  • Icon for: Elysa Corin

    Elysa Corin

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 04:26 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your project with us! Can you speak a little more about how you recruit libraries/librarians to participate in your program?  Are you targeting specific communities (e.g. rural)?  And, how are you measuring the impact of your program on program participants and the broader community?  Thanks!

  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:26 a.m.

    Elysa, 

    Thank you for your question. For this particular project, we were funded to partner with 12 different State Libraries from across the United States to bring a NASA STEM Workshop to their state. We had a competitive application process to choose which State Libraries we would work with. In the application process, we noted that we were specifically targeting rural and underserved populations and asked how the State Libraries would help us choose libraries that represented those populations. We received many great applications, and used that question as one of the determining, deciding factors. Once we selected our 12 State Libraries, we worked with them individually to help them on their application process (our NASA STEM Workshops were limited to 35 participants) in choosing library staff members from across their state that served rural and underserved populations. I was personally able to facilitate NASA STEM Workshops in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, and Alaska and really enjoyed working with library staff members that served diverse populations, including Native, indigenous, and rural communities. 

  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:28 a.m.

    I should also note that several of our workshops were facilitated by our wonderful partners at the Lunar and Planetary Institute!  

  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:36 a.m.

    Elysa, 

    For your question about measuring impact -- we are taking a unique approach to measuring the specific impact on these NASA STEM Workshops. Our group, the STAR Library Network (which is part of the Space Science Institute), has facilitated numerous multi-day workshops in the past. Normally, we work with an evaluation team to survey workshop participants immediately after the workshop to gauge its effectiveness. For this particular series of workshops, which were used to prepare library staff for the 2019 Summer Reading Theme ("A Universe of Stories"), we are taking a different approach. 

    The evaluation team for our NASA@ My Library Project, which includes much more than this series of workshops, is the Educational Development Center (EDC). (They have and will continue to conduct a wide range of evaluation on the numerous wings of this project.) For our NASA STEM Workshops, they are waiting to survey the library staff until after the they have facilitated their 2019 summer reading programs. In doing so, we are taking a look at "how well did these workshops prepare library staff to facilitate programs related to the 2019 summer reading theme?" as opposed to "how much participants enjoy the workshop?" We certainly love hearing that our attendees enjoyed the workshops; but, we'd much rather hear that attendees were ultimately empowered to facilitate space science programming!

    Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you!

     

  • Icon for: Kend Mullison

    Kend Mullison

    May 14, 2019 | 03:36 p.m.

    I've been lucky to be the facilitator for our library's NASA @ My Library grant project, and as a part of that project I've been leaning heavily on STAR_net resources. The in-person workshops haven't come to my corner of Montana (yet, at least), but the STAR_net resources I have access to are exceptionally high-quality, and I've been watching with envy and excitement as others have a chance to take part in the workshops. I hope that someday, every librarian has a chance to attend something of this caliber; summer reading is our highest-traffic time of year across all age groups, and we are always in need of more tools in our programming toolkits as we run STEM-related activities!

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • May 14, 2019 | 03:49 p.m.

    Hi Brooks, are you all familiar with the work by Nancy Price (among others, probably) out of University of Washington on emotional labor by librarians in these sorts of programming efforts? Seems relevant to your work.

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 04:26 p.m.

    Hi Katie! Thank you for the comment. I'm familiar with the idea, especially within the public organization/institution context, but not with Nancy Price's work specifically. Would you mind sharing any information that you have about her work so that I can look at it further? 

    We've been encouraging libraries that we work with to consider adopting a Community Dialogue Framework when thinking about STEM programming and strageic planning. In doing so, they aren't shouldering the burden of tough issues on their own, and are looking to community partners to help address the change. We really try to emphasize to our library partners that there are numerous partnership opportunities that they can take advantage of (whether in their own community or virtually) so that they are staying within their wheelhouse, per se. 

  • May 14, 2019 | 04:29 p.m.

    Unfortunately, all I know is that she's at UW and presented this work at NARST conference recently. I do recall her saying something just about the pressures of library staff in general, so I'm glad to see the emphasis you are placing on partnerships, though it's my impression even making partnerships can be a stretch for some. Too many great ideas, too few resources - especially time and money ...

  • Icon for: Brooks Mitchell

    Brooks Mitchell

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 04:53 p.m.

    Yes, library staff are truly some of the most undervalued members of our communities. They wear so many hats, including that of a social worker, community organizer, literary steward, and increasingly, a STEM facilitator. I believe that there is somewhat of a gap in what librarians are prepared for with a traditional MLS training and the reality of their position. Their role is certainly evolving, and we hope that our work will help library staff stay ahead of the curve! We were recently published in the International Journal of Innovations in Online Education (IJIOE) and touched on this in a little bit more detail - see here 

    I would also mention that there absolutely is no "one size fits all" training for library staff around the country. Working with a Teen Librarian from the Chicago Public Library, for example, is quite different than working with the sole library staff member from a rural location in Wyoming. (I'm lucky enough to get to work with both!) We try to be mindful of that and find STEM programming opportunities that make sense for that specific library. We recently led a workshop in Alaska, for example, and really put a focus on showing sustainable, low-cost, low-material activities that had regional relevancy and would work in locations with 24 hours of sunlight and no road access! Our NASA@ My Library program does offer programming funds, circulation kits, and much more...so we try to remove the financial barrier to a certain extent for our library partners. If only we could provide a few more staff members and a few more hours in the day for them, as well! 

    I really appreciate your insightful commentary, Katie! 

  • Icon for: Ginger Fitzhugh

    Ginger Fitzhugh

    Researcher
    May 14, 2019 | 10:41 p.m.

    I lead the evaluation team from Education Development Center that will be evaluating these workshops, along with many other parts of the larger NASA-funded project. Brooks did an excellent job of describing our planned approach to evaluating the impact of the workshops on library staff participants. The project team is especially interested in what difference the training makes to library staff members' practice, so we will be surveying librarians after they have had the opportunity to implement what they learned at the workshops. In other aspects of the project, we have used pre- and post-surveys to assess changes in library staff members' knowledge, skill and confidence in implementing STEM programming; interviews with library staff; observation of selected library programming; patron surveys and interviews; and patron circulation records (as a proxy for patron interest in various STEM topics), among other measure.

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: William Spitzer

    William Spitzer

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:47 a.m.

    Thanks Ginger, and hope you will post your findings to www.informalscience.org so they can be shared with the field!

     
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    Brooks Mitchell
  • Icon for: Ginger Fitzhugh

    Ginger Fitzhugh

    Researcher
    May 16, 2019 | 01:35 p.m.

    William: Thanks for the great reminder to share our findings on informalscience.org. We will definitely plan to do so.

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