ScienceOnline2010 occurred just over two months ago now, so this post is slow in coming, but I think you’ll understand after I explain. You see, really good conferences are often so intense and so full of new ideas that it can take some time before you can fully cull, and then express your thoughts. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months – chewing on ideas of connections – well, that and doing my ‘real’ work, which is making our tutorials.
I think I need to first describe where my idea comes from, before I tell you my idea. At ScienceOnline I didn’t really have any set agenda of what sessions I wanted to go to. I just went and absorbed and discussed wherever whim took me. I ended up in sessions about Math, science reporting, librarians, Martin Luther King Jr., legal issues of blogs, government 2.0 and more. The librarian session was an interesting look into the new age of what digital librarians can offer researchers and others. It was co-chaired by Dorothea Salo and Stephanie Willen Brown, and Trey has linked to a post by Dorothea on the same subject. The MLK session dealt with mechanisms for engaging underrepresented groups in online science media and was chaired by David Kroll and Damond Nollan. In that session someone mentioned that they had difficulties in having enough applicants for opportunities reserved for students from underrepresented groups & discussion followed as how to best notify such students of the opportunities. At approximately the same time I had been hearing about abundant STEM funding, and from a friend about her efforts to secure funding for after school workshops at a community library that largely served underrepresented groups.
I truly enjoy finding possible connections among groups that might solve a problem – to me it is like a mental puzzle that I find addictive. The idea that I came up with is for librarians at universities to collaborate with community librarians to provide STEM programs to encourage students in target populations to learn about, and enjoy, and be prepared for opportunities in science that might be available to them. In my way of thinking, it would provide university librarians a new service that they could provide their institutions with (i.e. outreach to underrepresented groups of students). It would provide a possible support system (financial, physical, collaborative and more) to community librarians trying so hard to support their communities in so many ways (after school programs, tutoring, mentoring, job placement – the list of what is needed from a community library goes on and on), often with little support. It would be of value to the universities because they gain an in road to the populations that they wish to reach. And if it does work it would be of value to our nation because it would help reduce racial barriers and lead to a better, more productive economy. I emailed a few people in the MLK session about my idea, but didn’t really follow through – I figured it might be just another of my silly/optimistic/foolish ideas.
Well, a week or two ago I happened to mention my idea to the friend with connections to a community library – actually to a librarian who was trying to find some sort of funding mechanism for her after school programs after her library was closed due to city budget issues. My friend fell sort of quiet, which I took as more evidence that the idea was off. Today she emailed & it turned out the silence was listening & some idea-chewing of her own. She went to a small local college with her workshop idea, and they were so excited about the concept that they have signed on to sponsor her summer workshop. The details aren’t all worked out, but it is enough encouragement for me to get the confidence to go public with my idea & ask if you think it would work on a larger-scale. Librarians, is your university likely to find value in such an effort? Educators, how could you envision adding your efforts to STEM education projects? Community members, do you see any value/interest in these ideas? What are your ideas for bridging gaps and helping to solve these issues? Any creative comments or follow-on ideas are much appreciated, as are reports of successful (or even attempted) implementations of similar efforts/ideas.