STEAM Equity Project Guidelines

Soy Super exhibit graphics

Date application posted: August 24, 2020 

Application receipt deadline: October 23, 2020 

Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or If you would like a member of the STEAM Equity project team to review and provide feedback on your proposal, please send your request to no later than September 28, 2020, to allow time for our staff to respond.  

Please use the links below to navigate to the following areas of the Guidelines. 

Table of Contents

I. Project Overview 
II. Benefits to Awarded Libraries  
III. Award Information 
IV. Eligibility 
V. Application and Submission Information 
VI. Application Review 
VII. Award Administration Information 
VIII. Points of Contact 
IX. Other Information 

Project Overview

In partnership with the National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) at the Space Science Institute (SSI), Twin Cities PBS (TPT), Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI), and Education Development Center (EDC), the American Library Association (ALA) is seeking twelve public library partners to participate in a STEAM Equity Project, which is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).   

The project will build on STAR Net (the Science‐Technology Activities and Resources Library Network), a community of practice led by NCIL/SSI and supported by funding from NSF, NASA, and IMLS. Additional information is online at Awardees will receive interactive 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. The Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) will help us better understand how libraries can best support tweens’ (ages 10-13) interest and persistence in STEAM learning in their rural communities. Education Development Center (EDC) draws on deep expertise in collecting data in the library setting to externally evaluate the project. 

Public libraries in rural communities serving significant Hispanic/Latino** populations were invited to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) during Phase I of the application process (May 1 – July 20, 2020). On August 11, 2020, full applications were invited from libraries that met the project’s eligibility requirements, based on their NOI submission. Only libraries that have been invited to submit a full proposal are eligible for this opportunity.    

**The project team uses the term “Latino” but acknowledges that communities and individuals may identify as Latino/a/x, Hispanic, Chicano/a, or a variety of other terms. 

The project team continues to monitor the COVID-19 health crisis and is committed to working with participating libraries to safely implement this project. See the project FAQs, which will continue to be updated throughout the application process.   

Project Aims 

Our vision is for participating communities to: 

  • Empower tweens and their families around equitable STEAM learning and career paths by leveraging their existing strengths, interests, and diverse cultures. 

With the support of the project team, participating public library workers will:  

  • Collaborate and co-create gender-equitable STEAM Exploration Pathways with community leaders (especially those serving Latino populations) and youth. 

  • Actively encourage tweens and their families to persist in STEAM explorations in the library and beyond. 

Together, selected library partners and project leadership will:  

  • Learn how library workers can more effectively support tween interest and persistence in STEAM learning in their rural communities.  

  • Share what we are discovering about STEAM learning and community collaboration with library workers, educators, and those in STEAM-related professions. 

STEAM Exploration Pathways 

To help each community develop their own unique STEAM exploration pathways, all participating libraries will develop and maintain: 1) STEAM exploration spaces, 2) active STEAM learning programs, and 3) STEAM outreach kits.  

  1. STEAM exploration spaces: Each participating library will co-develop and sustain a STEAM exploration space with content drawn from library collections and local community expertise, throughout the full length of the project. STEAM exploration spaces may be virtual in nature, in addition to any physical components that the library will provide.  

  1. Active learning programs: Each participating library will promote and facilitate three intergenerational STEAM programs annually, with a particular focus on meeting the needs and interests of tweens and their families.  

  1. STEAM Outreach Kits: The STEAM Outreach Kits will consist of PBS SciGirls resources (in both English and Spanish), hands-on activities, and off-the-shelf educational products that resonate with community interests.  

By “pathways” we mean the (sometimes meandering) sequences of STEM experiences and opportunities that people pursue across a range of informal and formal settings; some of these may lead to advanced academic and career choices. 

Problematizing the STEM Pipeline Metaphor: Is the STEM Pipeline Metaphor Serving Our Students and the STEM Workforce? 

Each library will host interactive Traveling STEAM Exhibitions to generate excitement and ideas from the community. The national project team will support this work by offering in-person and virtual Professional Development and Networking opportunities, providing access to a national community of practice, and connecting library staff with Online Resources for STEAM learning and community collaboration. At-home activities and online games are available now for libraries to incorporate into their programs and services; see the FAQ “What free STEAM learning resources are available now to help me start planning?" to access those resources. 

Community Collaborations  

Participating libraries will host annual Community Dialogues to build relationships with key stakeholders who, in turn, inform the development of STEAM exploration spaces and STEAM outreach kits and advise on recruitment of diverse participants in programs. The Community Dialogue website provides template letters you can use to reach out to organizations and suggestions for who those organizations might be.  

CPhoto of the Park Ranger Program. Three small children dressed as park rangers, standing behind caution tape. ollaboration with community leaders, organizations, and businesses that represent Latino populations will be instrumental in establishing meaningful connections and bringing new users to your library’s programs. Other local organizations — such as schools, youth centers, faith communities, higher education, government agencies, veterans’ organizations, and nonprofit social service providers — are also important in supporting tweens and their families in ongoing STEAM learning. 

"I never knew our recent immigrants from Mexico didn’t think the library was for them, because I never asked. You don’t know who you’re missing until you purposefully go to find them.” -- Discover Health/Descrubre la Salud library staff

II.  Benefits to Awarded Libraries 

Selected libraries will receive: 

  • Three Traveling STEAM Exhibitions 

  • Professional Development and Networking to provide ongoing support between awardees and the project team

  • Access to curated Online Resources 

  • $15,000 to support project activities over 2020-2024 (see III. Award Information

Traveling STEAM Exhibitions 

The three traveling STEAM exhibitions will include games, stations for patrons to create their own creative content, videos, and information designed to engage tweens and their families in: 

  • Self-expression/-improvement

 Word Art Picture with the words, "Food", "Games", "Design", "Express", "Athletics", "Self", "Secutiry", "Safety", "Play"

  • Creative problem solving

Word Art Picture with the words, "Creativity", "Empathy", "Environment", "Agriculture", "Tech", "Teamwork", "Iteration", and "Community"

  • Curiosity

Word Art Picture with the word, "Explore", "Universe", "Citizen," "Wonder", "Curiosity", "World", and "Observe"

Formal titles and graphics for each exhibition are under development in collaboration with youth, educators, and project advisors to be culturally appropriate for Latino communities. They will be in Spanish as well as English.  

Note that the tour timeframes will be established in collaboration with selected libraries in January 2021 to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

three kids in a STEAM exhibition

Hands-on STEAM exhibits can be a powerful motivator and conversation starter for your community. To maximize this benefit, it is critical that exhibit components are displayed prominently in an accessible space (such as near the check-out desk). Keep your traffic flow in mind and consider breaking up the exhibit and placing it in strategic areas around your building. We recommend against placing the exhibit in a closed-off room (like a vacant study room) or placing it in an area normally reserved for special events. A librarian in New York recommends, “Put the most exciting piece close to the front door so people see it and feel compelled to see what else the library has to offer. They’ll find things you’ve had for years and had never ever noticed!” 

Some libraries may choose to co-locate exhibit components with community partner organizations due to space limitations or to further enhance a relationship. Make sure both venues display items prominently and refer to each other to drive traffic between venues.  

The project team continues to monitor the COVID-19 health crisis and is committed to working with participating libraries to SAFELY create a successful exhibit tour. See the project FAQs, which will continue to be updated throughout the application process.  

Professional Development and Networking 

Project participants will receive orientation, onboarding, and ongoing training for this project through online and in-person events, as listed below. 

Awardees will also be able to network with each other and the project team through an online forum, which will provide ongoing support and an avenue for sharing lessons learned. 

One-time Events  

  • (Optional) Webinars focused on developing gender equitable (September 3, 2020) and culturally responsive (September 15, 2020) library programming. These webinars will be free and available to all public library staff. 

  • A webinar focused on Community Dialogues will take place in Fall 2020. This webinar will introduce participating library staff to the concept of a Community Dialogue, prepare library staff to participate in a Community Dialogue, and set the stage for small group coaching/support sessions about Community Dialogues.  

  • Following award notifications, an online introduction to the project, project partners, and project participants will be provided to all awarded sites in December 2020. This “Meet & Greet” will serve as the project orientation.  

  • A team onboarding webinar and group discussion for all project participants and available library community partners will take place in January 2021 

  • Project participants will receive comprehensive virtual training on exhibit set-up over the course of multiple virtual training events during Spring 2021. 

  • The project team and participants will plan to meet in-person when it is safe to do so. If it is possible, a two-day, in-person workshop will take place in 2021. This in-person workshop will be supported by pre- and post-workshop webinars. 

Annual or Ongoing Support 

  • Quarterly one-hour check-ins/discussions will be ongoing, beginning in 2021. Small group coaching/support sessions will be offered to assist the library in creating their Community Dialogue events.  

  • Quarterly one-hour webinars that cover STEAM exploration pathways and provide facilitation and program-development strategies and resources will be ongoing, beginning in 2021.  

  • Beginning in 2022, regional workshops will be facilitated by certified SciGirls Trainers for librarians and their collaborators on designing and facilitating STEAM programs and using STEAM Outreach Kits that are gender-equitable and engage Latinx families.  

  •  (Optional) Annual STEAM Equity Workshops will take place at the ALA national conference in June. 

Where possible, all trainings will be recorded and archived to make the onboarding of new staff and/or community partners more efficient. All training opportunities are required, except where noted.  

Online Resources 

STAR Library Network (STAR Net) is a vibrant, free network for libraries and their communities that explores new ways to bring science, technology, and fun into your programs and services. STAR Net focuses on helping library professionals facilitate STEM learning for their patrons by providing “science-technology activities and resources” (STAR) and training to use those resources. Whether you are new to STEM or are building on past experiences, STAR Net offers resources and collaborations to take lifelong STEM learning to new levels in your library. Through STAR Net’s STEM Activity Clearinghouse, sort activities by age, cost, time, and other parameters and peruse a collection of Take & Make activities for patrons to do at home. Start planning STEAM programs to accompany each of the exhibitions with these collections: 

SciGirls: Inspire girls (and boys!) around STEM studies and careers through gender equitable and culturally responsive digital media, hands-on activities, and family resources from the award-winning PBS series, SciGirls and Latina SciGirls. Direct children and families directly to the popular PBS KIDS website and learn more about resources that libraries can use with educators and parents at SciGirls CONNECT

III. Award Information 

Twelve public library partners will be selected to participate in the STEAM Equity Project. Participating libraries will commit to a project term from late 2020 – 2024 and sign a contract with the project sponsors agreeing to the programming, publicity, evaluation, reporting, communication, and other requirements of the project.  

Selected libraries will receive $15,000 to:  

  • Support staff time and/or young adult/teen/tween internships;  

  • Travel to required in-person professional development;  

  • Purchase materials as they customize STEAM learning experiences for their communities; and/or 

  • Support volunteers, community collaborators, and/or guest presenters. Note that arrangements with external parties must be approved in advance and made through formal written agreement, as required by the library’s contract. 

Host libraries are encouraged to include Latino/a staff members and interns, and/or establish formal agreements with Latino-serving organizations and groups to carry out project activities. 

Specifically, partner libraries agree to complete the following activities, as detailed in a table of Host Library Deliverables

  • Participate in:  

    • Project team communications, including quarterly check-in calls and coaching (online) 

    • Professional Development (in-person SAFELY and online)  

  • Engage with community collaborators, including through annual Community Dialogues   

  • Host three (400-square-foot) traveling STEAM exhibitions (tour years/dates TBD)  

    • Provide proof of insurance to ALA, and complete a report on exhibition condition at the conclusion of the hosting term 

    • Allow the public to access all exhibitions free of charge 

  • Co-develop and sustain a STEAM exploration space with content drawn from library collections and local community expertise 

  • Promote and facilitate three intergenerational STEAM programs annually, with a particular focus on meeting the needs and interests of tweens and their families 

    • Promote all programs, events, and activities to community members who are under-represented in STEM fields, especially Latino families and individuals, and women/girls 

    • Allow the public to access all programs, events, and activities free of charge  

    • Agree to all promotional and outreach requirements, including proper use of designated project credits and/or logos on all local promotional materials, both in-print and online 

  • Co-create, maintain, and lend three STEAM Outreach Kits  

    • Co-create the STEAM Outreach Kits in collaboration with Latino-serving leaders, organizations, and groups  

    • Lend the STEAM Outreach Kits to collaborators in order to extend STEAM learning opportunities throughout your community 

    • Use project funds, as needed, to maintain the STEAM Outreach Kits  

  • Contribute examples and discuss lessons learned through STAR Net online or in-person activities 

  • Participate in project research and evaluation    

  • Submit an online Annual Report Form, describing project activities and attendance 

IV. Eligibility 

Public libraries in rural communities serving significant Hispanic/Latino populations were invited to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) during Phase I of the application process (May 1 – July 20, 2020). On August 11, 2020, full applications were invited from libraries that meet the project’s eligibility requirements, based on their NOI submission. Only libraries that have been invited to submit a full proposal are eligible for this opportunity.  

Individuals and federal entities are not eligible to apply. 

V. Application and Submission Information 

Applications will be accepted for the STEAM Equity Project between August 24 and October 23, 2020.  Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time on October 23, 2020. Late or incomplete applications and applications from ineligible institutions will not be reviewed.   

Getting Started 

To begin the application process, access the application through Foundant, here. Please use the same login that was used to submit your Notice of Intent (NOI). If you have forgotten your password, use the “forgot my password” reset link. Your account has been approved to access the second phase of the application. This approval "begins" a draft of your application in Foundant, though none of the fields have been filled out on your behalf. Once logged into your account, submit your Access Key in the top right corner of your Dashboard. 

Submission of the Access Key will allow the Steam Equity Project Application to appear on the Apply Page. Simply click on the "Apply" button, then click the blue "Edit link" to the right of the Application form on your Dashboard.

If you need any assistance accessing your application (including your Access Key) please email


  • Note: The Project Director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating all project activity including the traveling exhibitions at the library. They will be the primary point of contact for the project.  
  • To complete step 1, provide all the information that is requested for the Project Director and save the information. 
  • After clicking the “SAVE” button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in, using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the submission deadline. 


  • To complete step 2, provide information about your library type, population served, visitor information, Internet access, etc. 


  • Before you compose the narrative part of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read the guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive. 


The three narrative sections of the proposal are outlined below. 

Institutional alignment:   

  1. Please describe, with specific examples, how your institution’s existing priorities relate to the aims of this project. Summarize or include a copy of your organizational goals and/or vision statement if relevant. Provide a letter of support from your library administration, with details on their commitment to this project and its alignment with the institution’s priorities, in the Uploads section (a minimum of one is required).  

  1. Name the team members who would be involved in implementing this project. Include information about their roles in the success of this project. Your team can include library staff members, interns, youth advisory boards, and volunteers, as well as other individuals who have agreed to contribute. Please provide brief bios of your team members in the Uploads section (required). CVs or resumes are optional. Letters of support are optional. Proposals will be evaluated favorably for outlining the inclusion of project members, either staff or community members (e.g., teen advisors, interns, community leaders), who identify as Hispanic/Latino. Please be advised that non-library staff project team members may be compensated for their time using the financial resources ($15,000) provided to successful applicant libraries. Please share relevant demographic information below, if applicable.  

  1. In what ways would participating in this project help address your institution’s intentions and your community’s needs? Include a discussion of how professional development from this project on gender equity, cultural responsiveness, and facilitating STEAM learning, as well as networking with other selected applicants, would help your team grow their capacity for this work.  

Learner engagement and support:   

  1. Provide an example of how your institution has designed and implemented public programming and/or community engagement in the past. Include details on how you addressed the specific interests, strengths, cultural perspectives, and/or educational needs of your target audience. Your example may relate to any topic area, whether it relates to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics or another domain. Provide at least one relevant sample program outline or activity description in the Uploads section (required). If possible, provide at least one sample communication or promotion plan that demonstrates how you customize your materials for the specific interests, strengths, cultural perspectives, and/or educational needs of your target audience.  
  2. How can you maximize your community's ability to engage with the 400-square-foot exhibitions to encourage STEAM learning? Please describe how you will set up the exhibit in an accessible public space, keeping the traffic flow in the library in mind. Provide details on how your planned set-up encourages patron activity and connects with your main library services. Please note, this space must be available for the entire project, as you will host multiple exhibitions and create your own displays during this time. Include any floor plans and/or photos of the display space in the Uploads section (optional due to COVID-19). If your library proposes to co-locate exhibit components with a community partner organization due to space limitations, please use this space to describe your plans in detail. Please note that it is mandatory that at least one portion of the exhibit is prominently placed at the applicant’s library location.  
  3. Give an example of how you would actively encourage a tween and their family to continue exploring STEAM learning in the library and beyond. Draw on what you already know – or would like to learn – about gender equity, cultural responsiveness, and/or positive youth development.   

Potential for new and deeper collaborations:   

  1. Describe your community outreach, collaboration, and engagement efforts to date. Include specific examples of successful collaboration, in addition to what you learned from any community collaborations that were not successful.  
  2. Describe how you plan to collaborate and co-create gender-equitable STEAM exploration pathways with community leaders (especially those serving Latino* populations) and youth. Upload a letter of support from at least one community organization/individual who serves Latino populations. A higher rating will be awarded to letters that include a description of the collaborator’s role in this project, your shared goals around tweens and STEAM learning, and any resources they require to be able to participate. Include a description about how you will convene annual Community Dialogues to build relationships and work with diverse stakeholders who can inform your inform STEAM learning efforts and assist with audience recruitment.   
  3. Provide specific plans regarding one of the following project requirements:     
  • Creating and sustaining a STEAM exploration space in your library and/or online throughout the project duration; OR   
  • Creating and lending STEAM outreach kits consisting of Latina SciGirls resources, hands-on activities, and off-the-shelf education products; OR   
  • Promoting and facilitating three STEAM programs (three per year).   


Please upload supporting materials for your application in the applicable areas. 

Institutional alignment:  

  • Required-1: Provide a letter of support from your library administration.  
  • Required-2: Upload the bios of team members (including library staff members, interns, youth advisory boards, and volunteers, as well as other individuals who have agreed to contribute). 
  • Optional-1: If desired, upload CVs or resumes of team members.  
  • Optional-1: If desired, upload letters of support from team members. 

Learner engagement and support: 

  • Required-3: Provide at least one relevant sample program outline or activity description. 
  • Optional-3: Provide at least one sample communication or promotion plan. 
  • Optional-4: Include any floor plans and/or photos of the display space. 

Potential for new and deeper collaborations:  

  • Required-4: Upload a letter of support from at least one community organization/individual who serves Latino populations. Desired: The letter could include a description of the collaborator’s role in this project, your shared goals around tweens and STEAM learning, and any resources that the collaborator requires to be able to participate.  


  • An application to host the STEAM Equity exhibition is an application for an award from the sponsors of this project (the American Library Association, the Space Science Institute, and the National Science Foundation). The sponsors ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization. To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested. 
  • To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested. 


  • Important Notes: If your application is not submitted, it will not be considered for the project. You cannot edit your application once it has been submitted. 
  • As you fill out the application, you may save your progress by clicking “Save Application” at the bottom right corner of the application page. 
  • You can download and view your application question responses as a PDF, prior to submission, by clicking the “Application Packet” button on the upper right corner of the application page. 
  • Once you are satisfied with your application and all required questions have been answered, you can submit your application by clicking “Submit Application” at the bottom right corner of the application page. 
  • When you submit your completed application, you will see an onscreen confirmation that your submission was successful. You will also receive an email confirmation that your application was received successfully. 

If you have questions regarding your application after submission, email with your inquiry. 

 VI. Application Review 

Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:  

Institutional alignment  

  • Evidence of alignment with institution’s priorities and team commitment  

  • Library administration letter of support required  

  • Team bios required; team letters of support optional 

  • Level of enthusiasm for building team capacity and addressing institution’s needs through this project 

Learner engagement and support  

  • Track record of designing public programs and/or community engagement around youth and family needs and interests 

    • Sample program outline or activity description required 

  • Quality of plans to use existing physical space(s) 

    • Floor plans and/or photos of the display space optional due to COVID-19 

  • Quality of plans to better respond to the needs of diverse audiences, including Latino populations 

Potential for new and deeper collaborations  

  • Track record of community collaboration and engagement efforts 

    • At least one community collaborator letter of support required; at least one organization/individual must serve Latino populations OR the team bios include Latino/a representation 

  • Quality of plans to involve community members in the project 

Review process 

Each application will be assessed by a review panel of librarians and representatives of other educational and cultural institutions and disciplines, in collaboration with the sponsors. The scoring rubric is available here

VII. Award Administration Information 

Application Deadline: October 23, 2020 

Award Notification: By November 20, 2020

VIII. Points of Contact

If you have questions about the project or the application, contact: 

American Library Association Public Programs Office 

Phone: 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045 


IX. Other Information 

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.