For immediate release | December 14, 2020

12 rural public libraries selected to receive funding to offer bilingual exhibitions and STEAM programming

Note: Contact the Space Science Institute at:

Media Contact:

Karly Pitman, 720-974-5874

Executive Director

Program Contact:

Keliann LaConte, 720-974-5835

Principle Investigator, STEAM Equity Project

Professional Development Manager

The Space Science Institute's National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL/SSI), the American Library Association (ALA), Twin Cities PBS (TPT), Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) and Education Development Center (EDC) are pleased to announce 12 rural public libraries that will participate in a project to bring culturally responsive and gender equitable STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) learning to library patrons, especially often-underreached Hispanic/Latino populations.

The project is generously funded through the National Science Foundation.

Through the STAR Net STEAM Equity Project, the libraries will each receive $15,000 over four years to participate in professional development activities, support community collaborations and purchase STEAM learning materials. In partnership with library staff and their community collaborators, the project will empower tweens and their families around equitable STEAM learning and career paths by leveraging their existing strengths, interests and diverse cultures.

Selected libraries will host the following traveling STEAM exhibitions and develop associated programs and outreach kits with their collaborators and community members. (Click on the image above right to view exhibition graphics.)

  • Soy Super: Conozco, aprendo, crezco / I’m Super: I learn, grow, change
  • Somos Super Creativ@s: Resolvemos, ingeniamos, construimos/ We’re Super Creative: We solve, build, engineer
  • Soy Super Curious@: Observo, exploro, pregunto / I’m Super Curious: I observe, explore, wonder

View the list of participating libraries.

In northwest Arkansas, the Berryville Public Library will partner with a local soccer club, the North Arkansas College and Arkansas Immigrant Defense — all organizations with strong connections to the local Hispanic/Latino community — to reach new learners, particularly young people.

“In order to set tweens on paths for STEAM learning and careers, it is imperative that tweens and their families feel like STEAM learning belongs to them,” wrote Berryville Public Library Director Julie Hall in her winning proposal. “If tweens and their families feel excluded from learning environments because of their culture, gender, economic status, or any other reason, they will quickly associate their experience of exclusion with all similar activities, and likely abandon continued explorations.”

Through a two-part application process, applicants were judged by peer reviewers on several criteria, including programming plans, involvement of partner organizations and community need. Selected libraries serve populations of 25,000 or less, have a Hispanic/Latino population that is at least twice the national average for rural communities, and represent 12 states.

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 60 million individuals, the Hispanic/Latino population is now the U.S.’ largest ethnic minority group and the fastest growing segment of the rural population. However, Latinos earned 13.5 percent of science and 10 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees nationwide and make up only 7.5 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce. Latinas are even more underrepresented, making up only about 2 percent of STEM occupations.

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 Hispanics/Latinos for careers in STEM.

The STAR Net STEAM Equity Project offers a wealth of expertise and 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, President of REFORMA de Nuevo Mexico (N.M.).

The project’s planning committee includes Cheryl Juárez, who contributes over 25 years of experience creating professional development models and curricula; 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 Numbers DRL-1906172 and DRL-1906084. 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.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

About the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute

The Space Science Institute (SSI) is a research and education 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a vision to expand humankind's understanding and appreciation of planet Earth, our Solar System, and the universe beyond. SSI's mission is to (a) enable scientists to make new discoveries, (b) increase science and technology literacy for people of all ages and backgrounds, and (c) inspire youth to pursue science-technology education and career opportunities. It is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, with locations distributed across the U.S. and internationally.

SSI’s National Center for Interactive Learning is dedicated to expanding the understanding and participation of families, youth, educators, and citizens in science and technology through learning research and innovative programs. NCIL is a national leader in developing STEAM activities and exhibitions for public libraries and their collaborators, as well as digital games and apps. For more information about the NCIL, visit


Sarah Ostman

Communications Manager

ALA Public Programs Office