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New Report Shows Integral Role of Libraries in STEM Education

Chris Yunker

The American Library Association (ALA) released their 2017 report Monday on the state of libraries in the United States. The report highlighted national trends for library programming and focused on the increased role of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at libraries across the country.

In Columbia, both Ellis Library at the University of Missouri and the Daniel Boone Regional Library have increased STEM programming to help children and young adults expand their curiosity and creativity.

Sarah Howard is the youth and community services manager for the Daniel Boone Regional Library. She said the library has an integral role to play to help students expand math and science learning beyond the classroom. She said STEM classes at the library are teaching students more than just computer skills.

“STEM actually counts as clipboards and crayons and markers,” said Howard. “Any tool could support this work, as well as all the electronic things that people hear about.”

Howard said not every student who participates in library programs will go on to be an engineer, but the programs help students learn about teamwork and equip them with skills for a variety of job fields.

Howard says the Daniel Boone Regional Library’s most popular program is called Sphero-nauts.

The program helps a group of about ten students learn the basics of computer programming and robotics. The students use an iPad to program a robotic ball to accomplish different challenges, like knocking over a set of bowling pins.

Howard said classes like Sphero-nauts are limited to small groups because of the availability of the technology, but the library does provide drop-in classes that engage students in other STEM tasks.

Ellis Library at MU is also helping students to find resources in STEM fields.

“It’s a growing area for our campus and for the whole country,” said Shannon Cary, communications officer for the MU library. “We’ve always had a strong program dealing with those fields and we know we need to support them.”

Cary said there are specific librarians for science, engineering and math that can help students find relevant readings and databases for their research. Librarians work in collaboration with faculty and staff in STEM departments to stay up to date.

Both Cary and Howard said libraries provide a space for students to develop their interest and knowledge in STEM fields to help their future careers.

Elena Rivera is a graduate student at the University of Missouri with a focus in radio reporting. She has reported and produced stories on arts and culture, education and mental health for KBIA. She received a B.A. in Communication and International Studies from Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Before coming to KBIA, Elena worked as the Career Development Specialist for a North Carolina non-profit called Dress for Success Triangle, which helped unemployed and underemployed women find jobs.