ALA announces STEAM funding and exhibitions for rural libraries serving Latino populations

For Immediate Release
Fri, 05/01/2020


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office

Public library workers in rural communities are invited to participate in a project that will bring culturally inclusive STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programming and exhibitions to their patrons, especially often-underreached Latino populations.

The initiative is offered by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute (NCIL/SSI), the American Library Association (ALA), Twin Cities PBS (TPT), Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI), and Education Development Center (EDC), with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Through the STAR Net STEAM Equity Project, 12 public libraries will receive $15,000 over four years (winter 2020 – summer 2024) to participate in professional development activities, support community partnerships and purchase STEAM learning materials. In partnership with library staff and their community collaborators, the project will engage families to empower tweens in STEAM culture and learning.

Participating library workers will learn STEAM programming and outreach strategies through virtual and in-person workshops. Starting in 2021, they will host three traveling STEAM exhibitions; facilitate three STEAM programs annually; create and lend three STEAM outreach kits; and develop a STEAM exploration space in their library. Read the project FAQs for full project benefits and requirements.

Those interested in applying on behalf of their library are invited to complete a brief, 15-minute Notice of Intent (NOI) about their community demographics and needs by July 20. Submissions will be reviewed by the STEAM Equity project team, and eligible applicants will be invited to submit a full project proposal in August 2020. Learn more and begin the application process online.

The STAR Net STEAM Equity Project strives to create learning opportunities at the intersection of transforming library services, gender equity and cultural inclusion (especially with Latino families), STEAM learning, and positive youth development.

The United States’ ability to compete economically and find innovative solutions to emerging problems is increasingly dependent on a workforce that is skilled in STEM disciplines. To solve tomorrow’s problems and continue exploring our world and our universe, diverse and creative thinkers must be welcomed into STEAM learning and empowered to pursue STEM careers.

With more than 50 million individuals, the Latino population is now the U.S.’ largest ethnic minority group and the fastest growing segment of the rural population. However, Latinos earn only 9 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees nationwide and make up only 11 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce. The situation for Latinas is even worse, with Latinas earning only 3.6 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees and making up only 1.8 percent the U.S. science and engineering workforce.

Public libraries are hubs for lifelong learning, especially in rural communities that may not have easy access to the scientific and academic centers in more urban locations, and they can bridge the gap to better prepare the next generation of Latino Americans for careers in STEM.

The STAR Net STEAM Equity Project offers a wealth of expertise and free resources from ALA's Public Programs Office and Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services, in collaboration with the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (project lead), Twin Cities PBS (TPT) and their SciGirls program, the Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) and the Education Development Center (EDC).

The project builds on the STAR Library Network, or STAR Net (where “STAR” stands for Science-Technology Activities and Resources), which offers free STEAM Ahead @ Home resources and a searchable STEM Activity Clearinghouse. Librarians and library workers are invited to use STEAM learning resources, including gender equitable and culturally responsive digital media, hands-on activities and family resources from the award-winning PBS series, SciGirls and Latina SciGirls.

STAR Net STEAM Equity’s library outreach advisors are Veronica Casanova, librarian at the Tulare County (Calif.) Library System’s Exeter Branch Library; Miguel Ruiz, supervising librarian at Evanston (Ill.) Public Library; and Flo (Florencia) Trujillo, youth services coordinator at the Farmington (N.M.) Public Library.

The project’s planning committee includes Dr. Alicia Santiago, a developmental neurobiologist and Latino outreach specialist at SciGirls; Cheryl Juárez, senior director of professional development at the Frost Science Museum; Dr. Damary Bonilla-Rodriguez, a national leading authority on leadership development, especially as it pertains to diversity and inclusion; and Maddie Correa Zeigler, an informal science educational consultant and grant proposal developer.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number DRL-1906172. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.