Maine Awarded Funding for Library-driven Science Literacy Project

Augusta - The Institute of Museum and Library Services has approved a $493,770 National Leadership grant proposal by the Maine State Library and Brunswick-based nonprofit Cornerstones of Science to support the development of an emerging vision of public libraries as community science centers. This project draws upon six state library agencies, science-based companies, public libraries, the formal and informal science communities’ expertise and commitment providing matching funds from our partners of $623,523 putting the value of this grant at $1,117,293.

The project, Empowering Public Libraries to be Science Resource Centers for their Communities, will help the State Library Agencies, of Maine and Massachusetts, develop the tools that empower public libraries to build and sustain effective informal science programming and services that connect their patrons and communities to science and technology learning, equipment (e.g. telescopes, microscopes and science kits), books, media and people in the scientific community.

“We know that STEM literacy is increasingly sought after by employers in a wide variety of industry sectors,” said James Ritter, Maine State Librarian. “The long term competitiveness of our economy and the prosperity of people in the workforce will be closely linked to the important work that libraries are doing today.”

The plan builds on an existing partnership between the Maine State Library and Cornerstones of Science to provide librarian training and free science resources that increase public access and opportunities to science experiences in public libraries. In 2014, the groups launched a lending library of science trunks offering programming ideas and teaching tools on eight distinct science topics and where the librarians are the local champions of science.

“Our mission is to strengthen the capacity of public libraries to serve as a place for people to gather in a local informal science setting,” said Cynthia Randall, Executive Director of Cornerstones of Science. “This ongoing public access and opportunity to science experiences strengthens community life by connecting people with science and technology in ways that stimulate curiosity and assisting citizens to understand the impacts that scientific and technological advances have on their daily lives.”

“Maine libraries are hubs for people seeking access to information and knowledge,” said Janet McKenney, Director of Library Development at the Maine State Library. “This partnership with Cornerstones of Science is a natural fit.”

As the lead state on the project, Maine will involve State Library Agencies in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island in developing a library-driven STEM programming model that could be replicated in any other state after the 30-month program is complete. The results from this collaboration will demonstrate how libraries, nationwide, can build and sustain effective informal science programming and services that prepare people to be full participants in their communities and global society.

Cornerstones of Science works with public libraries to create science experience that foster a deeper understanding of the world around them. Founded in 1999 at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Cornerstones has grown to support a network of 150 libraries in five states. Portland Public Library, Auburn Public Library and the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor will work with grant researchers to test the national model.

The Maine State Library facilitates access to and delivery of library services and collection resources for the State of Maine. Through its Library Development Division, the State Library provides consulting services to assist public and school libraries and administers federal and state funding for library services.

For more information, contact Janet McKenney at the Maine State Library at janet.mckenney@maine.gov.