Two School of Information Studies (iSchool) professors who have worked on several library-resources projects before will begin another innovative one soon, aimed at school librarians and the students they serve, thanks to funding from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The prestigious grant is in the amount of $249,495. The funding will permit faculty members Dr. Ruth V. Small and Dr. Marilyn Plavocos Arnone to develop, produce, and distribute information designed to spur creative thinking among students in grades 4 through 8 via a new website, The Innovation Destination. The site will provide librarians with new types of library resources. 

Dr. Small, who is the Laura J. & L. Douglas Meredith Professor at the iSchool; director of the Center for Digital Literacy and of the Center’s Project ENABLE; and co-editor of School Library Research, said she is especially enthusiastic about the prospect of undertaking the website based on the benefits it will bring to libraries, librarians, and the patrons they serve.

“I’m very excited that Marilyn Arnone and I will be working together again on another ground-breaking project for school librarians. In collaboration with experts in mentoring and supporting young innovators, we will be providing the training and resources needed for school librarians to mentor all of their students as creative and innovative individuals,” Small said.

She noted that the concept came about through her work over the past decade and its applied research. “I have been working on various projects with several young innovators organizations for almost 10 years, and two years ago conducted a study on the role of librarians in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in children and teens. The results of that research led to this project,” she said.

Arnone noted that, “while innovation and entrepreneurship are certainly about creativity and problem-solving, what really excites me is learning more about the curiosity triggers among young inventors and entrepreneurs.” She observed that although “curiosity is at the heart of an innovative spirit,” research has shown that curiosity questions seem to diminish as children reach the third-grade level. “Hopefully, with our great partners and what we learn from the child interviews, we can provide a resource that also helps librarians stimulate the curiosity that can lead to inventiveness,” she observed.

Small and Arnone will be working with several national and state organizations and community facilities as they develop the website and its content. They are By Kids For Kids; the Connecticut Invention Convention; NewYork-On-Tech; Time2Invent; and OCLC’s Webjunction, and Center for Mentoring Excellence, among other collaborators.

The professors also will be working with close to 100 school librarians and students in grades 4-8 to create a website that uses an iterative design approach. It will contain learning games, bibliographies, and research articles for use by elementary and middle school librarians, teachers, parents and students, according to the IMLS.

The centerpiece of the site will be KidsClips, a searchable database of hundreds of interviews with successful young innovators who provide insights into the innovation process and serve as role models for students. The goal of the website content is to stimulate and support creative thinking, the IMLS explained.

The project’s goals are to enable librarians to understand the importance of motivating and supporting student inquiry and innovation by creating innovation spaces within their libraries; demonstrate knowledge and skills for being innovation mentors; and recognizing increased student interest in innovation resources and activities.

The mission of IMLS is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement, and to provide leadership through research, policy development, and grant-making.