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Grant targets rural libraries to strengthen STEM learning

By CHARLES ANZALONE

Published September 21, 2017

Strengthening STEM learning through improved rural libraries is the goal of a federal research grant awarded jointly to UB and the University of West Georgia.

The $555,374 grant — of which $317,329 will go to UB — will fund research to find new ways to support the technical and science needs of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields by upgrading the nation’s rural school libraries, according to Dan Albertson, associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, who will administer the grant for UB.

The grant, titled “Rural Engagement to Advance Learning in STEM Digitally (REALISD) in School Libraries,” is funded under the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which supports projects to recruit and educate the next generation of librarians, library faculty and library leaders. It was awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the federal agency supporting research and capacity-building in information and library science.

“The grant is significant because it is well positioned to address several national priorities, such as finding new ways to support STEM learning and addressing the needs of rural communities,” says Albertson. “A lot can be at stake, ranging from increased interest and learning in STEM areas within rural schools up through workforce development in these communities.”

The rural component of the project is of particular importance because research shows that increased support for STEM is very much needed in rural schools, Albertson says.

“We are very grateful of the Institute of Museum and Library Services for giving us this opportunity to do a great service and build upon connections with education, such as STEM education and learning,” he says.

The project aims to deliver comprehensive professional development experiences — informed by STEM educators, school library leaders and digital resource experts — for 80 rural school librarians.

Participants will be recruited from the states of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The project is designed to increase participants’ knowledge, skills and abilities to facilitate STEM learning within their respective school libraries.

Albertson says the educational modules developed through this project will be widely disseminated and provide a model for teaching school librarians how to support STEM teaching and learning.

Melissa Johnston, an associate professor in the College of Education at the University of West Georgia, will administer the program for WGA. Albertson says the award is a split between the two institutions, with both universities fully involved in all aspects of the project.