My monthly post here on the ALSC Blog usually chronicles my personal adventures in STEAM programming at my library–programs that I’ve created from the bottom up, and which I lead. Since this is the summer of all STEAM all the time, however, I’ve been thinking about the variety of community resources that libraries can tap in order to supplement their home-grown programming. Are you looking for knowledgeable, engaging presenters to help diversify the STEM options at your library? Here are some ideas of places to look in your community.
Children’s Museums & Science Museums – Children’s museums and science museums can range from small operations to massive institutions, and pretty much all of them are interested in education and outreach. Find a museum in the general vicinity of your library, then check out the museum’s website. Oftentimes, the museum will list their ready-to-go outreach programs on their website, allowing you to get an idea of what programs might fit your library’s needs and budget. If examples aren’t listed, you can generally find a name and/or phone number to contact someone at the museum who could answer your queries.
Zoos, Aquariums, and Animal Sanctuaries – Tapping the zoo resources in your community is pretty similar to tapping the museum resources. Find accredited zoos and aquariums in your area–there are likely more than you realize–and set about discovering what outreach education opportunities they can offer. In my experience, smaller operations have more outreach resources, so don’t skip over a lesser-known institution just because you think it’s too small.
Botanical Gardens – Visiting botanical gardens has become one of the great pleasures of my adult life, and not once have I visited a garden without seeing children enraptured by the nature around them. Nature programs are a hit. Lots of botanical gardens have their own outreach programs, but if they don’t, they generally have connections to volunteers in the local horticultural society who would be happy to make an educational visit to your library. You can find all sorts of gardens and horticultural society members here.
Local Interest Clubs – Most communities offer a variety of interest clubs surrounding common hobbies–think garden clubs, stargazing societies, model rocket groups, and the like. You can always use your internet sleuthing skills to find out about STEM-area clubs near you, but I’ve found it’s almost easier to ask around the library to find these groups. More often than not, these club members are also your library users, and when they hear you’re looking for new program presenters, many will offer their services and enthusiasm. Do keep in mind that you’ll likely want to help club members as they craft their presentations–they may not be familiar with speaking to a young audience.
Local Businesses – If you’ve got businesses in your community that work in STEM areas, then you’re pretty much guaranteed to have access to expert STEM presenters. Many STEM companies provide incentives for their employees to do volunteer work in the community, and educational programs at the library definitely fall into that category. Some companies even have established education programs–just last week, I got a letter from a major bioengineering company with offices in the area offering their staff expertise for a library program. You can seek out information about STEM businesses in your area, see what they can offer, and then decide what programs would mesh with your library’s goals and vision.
These are just a handful of the community resources you could tap to offer new and engaging STEM presentations at your library. Who are your favorite community partners when it comes to offering STEM programs?