By: Hailey Temple

Graduate students at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) apply their coursework through actively working with public libraries to develop stronger programs and community connections.

Students in the Master of Library and Information Science (LIS) program collaborated with the Onondaga Free Library to develop and market “Full STEAM Ahead”  – a program focused on helping teenagers develop skills in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics disciplines.

The LIS students worked with the Onondaga Library during a semester-long project for Library Planning, Marketing, and Assessment instructed by Jill Hurst-Wahl. The students had to work through creating, designing, and implementing a program and marketing plan for the library based upon the needs of the library and the community.

“Libraries – as well as K-12 schools, colleges and universities – are focusing more on STEAM,” said Hurst-Wahl. “The library felt that STEAM would help meet needs of its communities and help prepare children and teens for a good future.”

“Full STEAM Ahead” focuses on three-phase approach to implement the program at the Onongdage Free Library. The group created a library guide focused around STEAM topics within the library program. The library would also have seven to ten Science Kits focused on these topics for students to use as part of a pilot program. The program finally proposed several speaking events by local professionals who would also serve as career mentors to teens from local schools.

With the “Full STEAM Ahead” initiative, the Onondaga Free Library hoped to prepare students for careers and advanced degrees in STEAM disciplines. With educational resources available, students have the opportunity to explore and gain hands-on experiences in their fields of interest. The library also serves as a connection hub for professionals and students to connect and share skills and experiences.

The team presented “Full STEAM Ahead” during their final poster session at the end of the Spring 2014 semester. “Our team worked well together and used our individual strengths to make the project come to life. At first it was terrifying to do a semester-long project, but the experiences and rewards were worth the hard work,” said Dina Meky, an LIS student who helped create the project.

The Onondaga Free Library submitted “Full STEAM Ahead” for a grant awarded by the Young Adult Library Service’s Teen Read Week. They were among ten library programs to receive the grant and used the opportunity to create a Teen Read Week event in October. The event featured a Human Library session, where local teenagers could meet professionals in STEAM disciplines and connect their experiences to education. The library also used the resources to develop a larger Young Adult section devoted to career resources and STEM disciplines.

Deirde Downs, a second-year LIS student who also developed “Full STEAM Ahead,” had the opportunity to attend the Teen Read Week event and support the library. “It was great to see students experiencing the library in a different way – as a place where they can learn more about enriching their education and career,” said Downs.

For Meky, the “Full STEAM Ahead” project provided the essential real-world experience and group work that LIS students need to thrive in their careers. “Writing papers and doing research is important, but it felt great to work on a project that was going to make an impact on the community,” said Meky. “This project is something I can use in my portfolio and tell others that we helped make a difference with a successful campaign.”