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Dartmouth, NSF aim to turn America’s rural libraries into STEM centers

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HANOVER, N.H. – Dartmouth College will use a $3 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to further help small, rural libraries nationwide to improve public understanding of science.

The project, called "Rural Gateways: Fostering the Development of Rural Librarians as Informal Science Facilitators," follows a related Dartmouth-led project called "Pushing the Limits: Building Capacity to Enhance Public Understanding of Math and Science Through Rural Libraries," which was funded by a five-year NSF grant of $2.5 million in 2010.

The projects' goal is to develop rural libraries and librarians into informal STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning centers. The first project reached more than 100 libraries and the new project aims to involve another 110 by providing them with multi-media STEM materials in a book club-science café format and connecting them with local science partners.

Both projects target librarians and adult library patrons in small towns and rural areas where access to science education centers such as museums are limited. "Libraries serve as a nexus of intellectual activity and social life in these communities," says Dartmouth's Dan Rockmore, a professor of mathematics and computer science who leads the project. "Our goal is to make these libraries and librarians more comfortable with being places to learn science outside of school. This is very important for adults and thus for a science-literate populace."

The grants fund an informal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education model for rural libraries in partnership with the Association of Rural and Small Libraries.

"Rural libraries and librarians have the potential to play an extraordinarily important role in the overall informal science education ecosystem," Rockmore says. "We're not assuming we can teach them to be scientists, but that we can make them much better at and more comfortable with and even eager to do these kinds of activities again and again."

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Professor Dan Rockmore is available to comment at [email protected]

To localize this story idea, a number of librarians at small, rural libraries also are available to discuss how the STEM project has benefited their communities.

Broadcast studios: Dartmouth has TV and radio studios available for interviews. For more information, visit: http://communications.dartmouth.edu/media/broadcast-studios

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