STEM for Children in Public Libraries

Presentation to a Public Libraries Victoria Network event.

Elizabeth Swan

Web Search Pacific Pty Ltd

PO Box 364, Rose Bay, 2029

June 3 2016

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about the potential you have in my view, to demonstrate to government, educators and the community, the powerful and valuable role you can play in improving STEM literacy in Australia.

My goals today are to talk about:

  • why I believe it is time to focus on STEM literacy in Australia
  • why I think all public libraries have a vital role to play in developing STEM literacy
  • what librarians in other parts of the world are doing regarding STEM
  • some possible STEM projects
  • the desirability of seeking partners in education, government, professional associations and business
  • how we may go about developing partnerships

My background

Firstly a little about me.  I am NOT a Public Librarian. I’ve had very little experience in public libraries but I am interested in the challenges you face – especially funding and recognition challenges.  I have planned and run some workshops for public librarians on both strategic management and searching. I have also worked with children 11+ years old in school libraries in London.

For over 30 years, I was a Special Librarian and since 1989 I have owned Information Edge – now called Web Search Pacific, for the first 6 years as a joint venture with the State Library of NSW and for the past 20 years as the sole owner. Throughout my career, I have been a rebel because I have welcomed and even strived for change, changes that I believe have been helpful for libraries and librarians.

In the 1970’s I could not accept the view of the CSIRO Chief Librarian who refused to allow me to attend training on how to use the new computerised medical information system MEDLARS because she said there was no role for computers in libraries.  So I left CSIRO and on the Herengracht in Amsterdam I began working in a small team with a pioneer in online information – Dr Pierre Vinken of Excerpta Medica, now known as Embase and a competitor to Medline now often used as PubMed.  There we saw our first online trial one snowy day in December 1971 and shortly after I wrote the Dutch government’s submission to UNISIST -the UNESCO conference on science and technology indexing for databases.

Back in Australia, my fascination with online information continued when I managed two special libraries for ACI – a business library in Melbourne and a technical library in Sydney.  We learned how to create databases and in 1976 introduced to ACI online searching of Dialog and Orbit databases and not long after several other online services such as Reuters Business Briefings, Australis, Profile and Presscom. A hostile takeover occurred in 1988 and nearly all corporate staff were made redundant. It was then I was approached by the State Library of NSW to establish Information Edge.

With colleagues on the ALIA Information Science Section committee I helped to:

  • lobby OTC successfully to reduce telecommunications costs with the introduction of MIDAS – the first packet switching service in Australia
  • hold the first training for Dialog and Orbit databases when we brought two US experts from US to train librarians across Australia
  • establish the Information Online conferences & exhibitions which we ran very profitably for ALIA for about 20 years until 2005.

Later in my business I:

  • developed workshops with Robert McEntyre on strategic planning for public libraries for Library Managers and Council Managers
  • ran workshops on Tips and Tactics for Successful Searching with Maree Enright
  • introduced advanced Web search training  around Australia with Chris Sherman and Mary Ellen Bates

So although not an experienced public librarian, over the years my colleagues and I had success by identifying an issue, and then working with others in the industry – including business – to find successful solutions.  I believe that is possible now for you in relation to STEM literacy.

So why I am now interested in STEM literacy programmes in libraries?

My interest in STEM started when the Australian Chief Scientist issued his report Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future. Canberra, Australian Government, 2014 http://tinyurl.com/hy585p6

His report begins with these words:

  • The global economy is changing. New technologies and smart companies lead.
  • New industries and new sources of wealth are emerging.
  • New skills are required for workers at all levels.
  • Australians must decide whether we will be in the forefront of these changes or be left behind. We have a choice.

In the appendix, the scope of STEM is detailed:

`` Science encompasses disciplines within the natural and physical sciences: astronomy and the earth sciences, physics, chemistry, the materials sciences, biology and biomedical science. These sciences are characterised by systematic observation, critical experimentation, and the rigorous testing of hypotheses.

Technology provides goods and services to satisfy real world needs; operating at the cross-section of science and society. Information and communications technology is playing an ever increasing role in our society and provides enabling capacity to the other STEM disciplines. The output of the technology provided must eventually stand the test of users and the marketplace.

“ Similarly, Engineering draws on the knowledge and methods of science to address and solve immediate problems; often without the luxury of abundant or complete knowledge and, in addition, taking account of aesthetics, user needs and economic constraints.

Mathematics seeks to understand the world by performing symbolic reasoning and computation on abstract structures and patterns in nature. It unearths relationships among these structures, and captures certain features of the world through the processes of modelling, formal reasoning and computation.

The Australian Information Industry Association issued a press release immediately saying they supported the need for improved STEM skills http://tinyurl.com/zqvexes.  The AIIA urged the government to have an overarching framework that was integrated with the curriculum and a “national STEM Investment Strategy, supported by a well-articulated Action Plan, milestones, targets and measures”

It totally ignored the role of libraries and focused instead on education, professional and business capability and it listed 6 initiatives it would take such as engaging with government and education institutions and they also issued an 18 page response entitled Vision for a Science Nation.

One “Means to an end” to improving STEM literacy that the Chief Scientist identified is:

Education and training

Australian education—formal and informal—will prepare a skilled and dynamic STEM workforce and lay the foundations for lifelong STEM literacy in the community.

In the 4 pages detailing how Education and training will contribute to improving STEM literacy, there was only one tiny mention of libraries:

Formal education refers to learning through education institutions with structured and direct instruction, such as schools, universities and though other accredited training programmes.

Informal education refers to learning through indirect means such as on-the-job training; through community education centres such as museums, libraries and technology centres; and through the media

The FORMAL educatorsschools, education departments, and universities were quick off the mark.

In November 2015, the Chief Scientist himself “launched an online platform that will put high school and university students into partnerships with technology and science.

www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2015/s4353669.htm

The Education Council also stated how to improve STEM literacy in schools.

https://ministers.education.gov.au/pyne/taking-action-now-revitalise-stem-study-schools

Quantum Victoria has been established with an extensive program to aid schools and teachers relating to STEM. http://www.quantumvictoria.vic.edu.au/about-us/

Even some of the INFORMAL educators have responded:

The Council of Australian Museum Directors responded to the report.

http://camd.org.au/stem-paper-released/

The SA Museum and the Queensland Museum are also quick off the mark.  The Miraikan Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Darwin looks set to be active.

But what about libraries?

The State Library of Victoria hosted a talk for 1.5 hours in 2015 but it appears no librarians were involved in the talk. http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/policy-pitch-stem-all

The National Library of Australia and State Library of NSW reported they had catalogued the report.

But most Libraries and our professional association ALIA were silent.

Why should libraries be interested in STEM literacy?

I think all libraries and especially public libraries have a powerful role to play as INFORMAL EDUCATORS because you already are engaged in improving STEM literacy!

What do you already have in your collections on?

Computer science 000’s

Transportation 300’s

Defence science & technology 300’s

Science 500’s

Technology 600’s

Photography & imaging 700’s

In addition, clearly Australian public libraries are very committed to “Lifelong Learning”.   PLVN’s own Statement on Social Inclusion and Learning in 2010 identified “Lifelong learning has an increasing importance in modern society where technological developments mean that people must continually improve their skills.  Public Libraries support this through their collections and programs”.

ALIA and many libraries in Australia have proudly proclaimed their important role in developing “lifelong learning”  especially  in relation to “early literacy” e.g. “only libraries open up a world of books, a lifetime’s supply of free reading materials and other resources. Public libraries are the only government-funded agency available to children from babyhood, providing year-round, free access to resources

and services that support reading and literacy”. “Libraries provide free literacy resources to parents of 0 to 4-year-olds and they are one of the few agencies, along with maternal and child health services, helping parents to be their children’s first teachers. The most active period of human brain growth and development is from birth to three, and libraries employ specialist children’s and youth services staff to help parents/caregivers

give their children the best start by sharing books with them”. https://www.alia.org.au/earlyliteracyframework

This is laudable.  But what happens to the children after they turn 5? What is the role of the public library for children beyond 0-4 years? How do libraries continue to stimulate and excite children’s curiosity about the world they live in?

Many public libraries around the world and some in Australia are already demonstrating that STEM activities are very exciting for school age children.  It is another unique role for libraries to be involved in the INFORMAL EDUCATION of children.

At the same time it has strong political support. In December 2015, it was reported “The federal government will invest more than AU$110 million to equip young Australians with STEM and digital technology skills, as well as creating further career opportunities for women in the STEM sectors”.

http://www.zdnet.com/article/stem-education-gains-over-au110m-in-turnbulls-ideas-boom/

The Labor Party is equally vocal about STEM literacy. “Shorten visit puts STEM in focus” https://aboutcatholicschools.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/shorten-visit-puts-stem-in-focus/

What is the difference between FORMAL and INFORMAL Education?

I like the OECD descriptions: http://tinyurl.com/hboh9yk

“Formal learning is always organised and structured, and has learning objectives. From the learner’s standpoint, it is always intentional: i.e. the learner’s explicit objective is to gain knowledge, skills and/or competences. Typical examples are learning that takes place within the initial education and training system or workplace training arranged by the employer. One can also speak about formal education and/or training or, more accurately speaking, education and/or training in a formal setting. This definition is rather consensual.

Informal learning is never organised, has no set objective in terms of learning outcomes and is never intentional from the learner’s standpoint. Often it is referred to as learning by experience or just as experience. The idea is that the simple fact of existing constantly exposes the individual to learning situations, at work, at home or during leisure time for instance. This definition, with a few exceptions (see Werquin, 2007) also meets with a fair degree of consensus.

Currently in Australia, the FORMAL educators  – i.e. the School, TAFE  and University Sectors- are already working to improve STEM literacy and are attracting substantial funding from both Federal and State governments and from the private sector.

  • The Turnbull government has offered a further $12 million to schools:

“The Australian Government has committed an extra $12 million to restore the focus, and increase student uptake of, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in primary and secondary schools across the country. https://www.studentsfirst.gov.au/restoring-focus-stem-schools-initiative

  • The first summer schools for mathematics for female students was held in December 2015:-

$250,000 was committed to support these schools at ANU. http://tinyurl.com/htzvbg9

  • “In 2014 the Alcoa Foundation donated $50,000 to Deakin University for “much needed support for women in the technical field,

addressing the skill shortage and gender imbalance, by offering five one-off undergraduate engineering degree stipends, valued at $10,000 each” and $49,000 to the Geelong Regional Vocational Education Council, Alcoa Future Leaders of Industry Program for a “program [that] encourages young people to focus on the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – so they can become the innovators and leaders of the future”.

https://www.alcoa.com/australia/en/news/releases/2014_07_24_geelong_foundation_grants.asp

  • Queensland University of Technology has launched the Vice Chancellor’s STEM camp

“High school groups are invited to participate in free, curriculum-mapped STEM workshops in the Science and Engineering Centre at our Gardens Point campus”. https://www.qut.edu.au/study/undergraduate-study/do-you-advise-school-students/stem-for-schools

  • The Victorian Department of Education is providing teachers with details of “the curriculum, professional learning, student programs and research to support students to remain engaged and inspired in STEM”.

“Developing STEM knowledge and skills are critical to facing current and future challenges, including living in a changing environment, effectively managing food and water, delivering improved health and wellbeing, and ensuring Victoria’s prosperity and development.  We are raising the profile of STEM education with educators, leaders, careers advisors, students and their families and community. It is important that STEM education is seen as vital for all our young people’s futures, regardless of their intended pathway. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/support/Pages/stem.aspx

So while there is a lot of activity among the FORMAL EDUCATORS in Australia, the role of INFORMAL educators so far seems to be relatively weak and libraries are very rarely mentioned.

This is I believe a great opportunity for libraries to make a mark.

Which countries are adopting STEM literacy?

In the USA, over the past 6 years, American public libraries have been increasingly active in delivering STEM literacy projects probably because President Obama launched the Educate to innovate program in 2009.  As a result we are lucky that we have lots of material to draw upon to plan how we will tackle this issue.

“A growing consensus among researchers is the need to develop more collaborations between public schools and informal science institutions, including museums, youth programs, and libraries.”

http://successfulstemeducation.org/resources/connecting-informal-and-formal-stem-education

Others have said “… youth frequently engage in powerful science and engineering activities that take place after or outside-of-school. They learn STEM content, engage in STEM practices, and develop an understanding of how STEM is used in the world. To capitalize on those assets, educators and other stakeholders should learn about, leverage, and broker connections for youth across the STEM learning experiences available in and out of school”. http://stemteachingtools.org/brief/38

In Singapore, “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education has become a priority to many countries around the world as they look to build a STEM-educated workforce that helps them to stay globally competitive and can help in solving many of today’s global problems (e.g., food security or clean drinking water)”. http://tinyurl.com/j8k4zhd

In the UK, How to STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education in Libraries – was published in Dec 2013 https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-STEM-Technology-Engineering-Education-y/dp/0810892731

“a cornucopia of ideas on how libraries can engage youth in the crucial subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. The twenty-five chapters cover exciting ideas for this engagement ranging for those applicable for pre-schoolers to those for college students. Written by a very diverse group of authors from public libraries and academia”

In Canada, The Council of Canadian Acadamies has issued a report on STEM skills and Canada’s economic productivity. “many new challenges are on the horizon — or already upon us. They include the rapid pace of technological change, an aging population, environmental concerns associated with increased resource extraction, and rapid growth of developing economies with large numbers of capable students. In this evolving global context, Canada must ensure that its workforce has the right balance of skills to take advantage of opportunities and be prepared to adapt to change.

http://tinyurl.com/m5quxrw

In New Zealand in 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor wrote “Increasing science literacy in turn increases the demand for evidence-informed decision making and the consequent demand from within policy circles for access to relevant data and analysis to build a body of evidence that can be used to strengthen public policy.”

http://www.pmcsa.org.nz/blog/towards-a-smarter-nation-the-role-of-science-education-and-science-literacy/

LIANZA in NZ has for some time been promoting the role of libraries in STEM literacy, e.g.

How to Transform a Summer Reading Program into a Summer Learning Program with STEM

http://www.lianza.org.nz/how-transform-summer-reading-program-summer-learning-program-stem

The Australian Council of Learned Academies has published a report in which they           compare STEM literacy globally.  They found “Most nations are closely focused on advancing STEM and some have evolved dynamic, potent and productive strategies. In world terms Australia is positioned not far below the top group but lacks the national urgency found in the United States, East Asia and much of Western Europe, and runs the risk of being left behind”. http://www.acola.org.au/PDF/SAF02Consultants/SAF02_STEM_%20FINAL.pdf

Opportunities for Australian Public Libraries?

So in Australia, I would like to see librarians- especially public librarians – accepting the role of being the most important INFORMAL educators and becoming equally active and equally supported and recognised as the teachers in the educational sector for these reasons:

  1. Librarians are already engaged in improving STEM literacy by collecting in these areas!
  1. Librarians are already committed and experienced with encouraging lifelong learning.
  1. Public Libraries attract a lot of people to them of all ages. According to NSLA’s Australian Library Statistics 2013-4 there were 112 million library visits in 2013-4 nationally, and there are 52 public library services in Victoria. So it is likely there are about 14 million library visits per year in Victorian public libraries. Therefore public libraries are in a great position to contribute to the INFORMAL education to improve STEM literacy! But no one in government seems to know about this big secret! Why are we so silent?
  1. Public libraries serve people of all socio-economic groups across our country – both cities and regional areas and they have a reputation for being “safe”.
  1. Libraries in other parts of the world are already engaged in helping to improve STEM literacy.
  1. There seems to be clear evidence from the US experience that INFORMAL literacy programs are equally important as the FORMAL programs for several reasons – they are “grade-free”, they allow the individual child to pursue his/her own interests rather than being forced into the school curriculum.  I would add they have the potential to make STEM projects fun!
  1. I am also told by teachers that their curricula are so full these days they barely have time to devote as much time as they would like to STEM activities.
  1. The school and tertiary institutions will get funding via the FORMAL education route. You deserve to get funding for the INFORMAL education.

It seems to me, that because as a profession we have not expressed interest in taking an active role, sadly libraries are totally missing out on:

  • The additional government funding being made available by state and federal governments
  • Support from other organisations such as government agencies, professional associations and companies such as ALCOA
  • And importantly recognition in the community about your important potential role.

STEM programs in US & Canadian libraries

I am impressed with the ALA’s view in the US that Libraries are neutral places where students are not being assessed and they can pursue topics that are of interest to them rather than those tied to the curricula.

https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2015/05/18/making-for-stem-success

For example:

The STAR Library Education Network (Starnes) is a national program led by the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (www.nc4il.org). STAR stands for Science-Technology Activities and Resources. Core partners include the American Library Association, Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance. Other partners include the National Girls Collaborative Project, National Academy of Engineering, Engineers without Borders-USA, IEEE-USA, the National Renewable Energy Lab, American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, LEGO, and many more. Phase 1 of the Starnes project was supported through a grant from the National Science Foundation. Phase 2 is funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health (SEPA Program).

According to Star_Net “Every person’s education is an ongoing and lifelong experience that includes family, school and community.  Research shows that a young person’s academic success and career choices depend on all three. The spark that inspires a child’s interest in STEM can come from an informal learning experience in a public setting, such as a museum or a library”.

“The main goal of STEM education is not for students to become mathematicians, scientists, technicians, or engineers; although it would be great if more of our youth had such aspirations. The goal is for all students to be able to function and thrive in our highly technological world–that is, to be STEM literate.”

The most sophisticated STEM services in the US appear to have dedicated rooms and I assume this will rarely be possible in Australia.  Perhaps one goal should be to find some sponsorships to support the activities by providing some computers and associated equipment – perhaps STEM corners?

But STEM projects can be as simple as:

  • Inviting an entomologist to take kids outside to find insects
  • Letting a local astronomy club set up their telescopes in the parking lot for a night time star party
  • Hosting science Sundays or Whacky Wednesdays
  • Robot races
  • Maker spaces which can be used for STEM activities such as building bridges with pasta shapes.

A substantial paper STEM programming in Libraries Wikispace contains many useful suggestions, e.g.  Libraries offer a judgement-free, grade-free zone where children can explore, make mistakes, and come back continuously week after week to develop more comprehensive activities, skills and projects… By engaging in STEM programming with community partners, libraries demonstrate they are more than a book repository.  It also has a substantial list of references. http://tinyurl.com/zujvcun

The Institute of Museum of Library Services contains information about the grants process and grants available in the US but may help with planning our approach to funders.

At one end of the spectrum there are public libraries in the US with 3D printers, vinyl cutters and music studio equipment, but there are opportunities to manage with fewer funds, e.g.  Design as story time with activities about planting flowers, or making boars or flying paper aeroplanes.

There is free software available for children.  www.imls.gov

Museums provide a source of printed information – a great example of this is the Children’s Library Discovery Center at Queens Library Jamaica.  Digital petting zoos allow children and their parents to pick up and play with e-readers, tablets, cameras, mp3 players.  Gaming at the library can encourage the use of mathematics and engineering skills. http://tinyurl.com/zn69tmo

The National Science Foundation in the US has interesting information about proposals for computing partnerships and STEM. http://www.nsf.gov/about/

Dow Corning has issued a booklet about the STEM literacy projects it has sponsored.

http://www.dowcorning.co.jp/ja_JP/content/publishedlit/01-4166-dow-corning-foundation-2014.pdf

A warning was sounded by R David Lankes a lecturer in information studies at Syracuse University at the Public Libraries & STEM conference last year   He says “America’s public libraries can play an important role in furthering STEM education. However, this will be true only if STEM learning efforts focus on librarians and librarians acting as facilitators. Any effort to transform librarians into STEM experts will have limited success given the increasing number of roles librarians are being asked to take on.”  So he recommends “Librarians must instead create platforms within a community to unleash STEM expertise within the communities they serve”. http://tinyurl.com/zr24mga

Google searches  for : “public libraries” “stem literacy” OR “stem education”  retrieve a large number of relevant references about STEM literacy programs mostly in the US, including:

Public Libraries & STEM – conference. 2015

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/stemlibraryconference/

The STEM Education Movement in Public Libraries 2013

http://www.nc4il.org/images/papers/ILR%20STEM%20Library_FINAL.pdf

A 5 page article on The STEM education movement in Public Libraries by P.B. Dusenbery

https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2011/09/20/the-lowdown-on-stem/

The Lowdown on STEM: a formula to lure teens towards science and math. By Linda W. Braun

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/explore/stem/

“Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): Where Do They Belong in Your Library? “  An article in American Scientist proposed that out-of-school experiences may be as — or even more — important as the time devoted to schooling for increasing science literacy (Falk, 2010)”

http://thespiritedlibrarian.blogspot.com.au/

STEAMed Up At The Library: Using STEAM programs in the public library

https://au.pinterest.com/mtreagan/stem-projects/

Jumping off points for STEM projects

https://simplystem.wikispaces.com/Welcome+to+Simply+S.T.E.M.

Simple Ideas for S.T.E.M. Programming in Libraries

http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?tag=stem

A list of simple STEM project ideas

https://www.aisnsw.edu.au/Services/Partnerships_in_Education/STEM/Pages/Resources.aspx

2016 AISNSW STEM Resource List, as at 4/2/2016.

A list of existing projects and sponsors in Australia prepared for the Association of Independent Schools in NSW.

http://www.intel.de/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/reports/makers-report-girls-women.pdfHow to use maker spaces and how girls differ from boys in these spaces.

http://www.edutopia.org/grants-and-resources

A list of funders in the US and the associated projects.  It is a great example of how rewards can be incorporated, .g. free passes, or cash.

http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/STEM-Funding-Brief-10182012.pdf

Know your funders: a guide to STEM funding for After school.  Although focussed on funding for schools, it contains ideas for how we may go about seeking funding.

“Afterschool program evaluations have shown that participating in STEM-focused afterschool programs leads to increased interest, knowledge and skill, and in some cases improved high school graduation rates and pursuit of STEM careers among participants”.

 

Partnerships?  With whom? Why? How?

I believe there are several reasons why partnerships should be systematically sought.

  • Both FORMAL and INFORMAL STEM education is needed and I believe libraries would benefit from reaching out to the schools in their areas to clarify what cooperation and coordination may be possible. Identify the people responsible for STEM in your local schools and find out what opportunities there are to collaborate on some activities. It may even be possible to use this relationship to find out the issues that most excite local children – could it be fishing or surfing, cosmetics or football – any of these have potential for fun STEM projects relating to agriculture, oceanography, chemistry, and physiology.
  • Many agencies and companies have material they can make available to libraries for free, e.g. Owens Illinois (OI) may be able to make videos, and posters and booklets available about how glass is made, how it is recycled and what is the difference between recycling and reusing, energy consumption on different options etc. Melbourne Water has material available on dams, and other water projects.
  • Collaborating with subject specialists in various STEM fields will help to identify critical STEM literacy issues that need to be promoted and may also help to develop fun quiz questions for example: The Royal Australasian College of Physicians wants to improve the oral health of the community’s young people and children. RACP: Oral Health in Children and Young People :Position Statement 2013
  • I believe it should also be possible to obtain “rewards” from some sponsors – such as $20 gift vouchers or “free passes” for completing a task
  • There are government agencies offering funds for various community programs that hopefully we can tap into, e.g. Stronger Regional Communities Plan (SRCP) aims to support rural and regional towns in attracting families and young people to live and work. There is even a Victorian Litter Fund which may be worth considering as a funding opportunity.   http://www.vic.gov.au/grants.html?type=grants&page=3
  • Hopefully we can attract funding support from the private sector also such as ALCOA’s generous support in Geelong.

I believe by developing strong partnerships we will be able to get the publicity we need to demonstrate to government and to the community the important role being played by libraries because the partners themselves will want recognition for their support!

Why would partners be interested?

Michael Porter, the famous management guru from Harvard University has claimed that Corporate Social Responsibility is increasingly important for companies. He suggests companies if they use the same decision making frameworks that guide their business decisions, will find CSR is often more than a cost – it can be a “source of opportunity, innovation and competitive advantage” and it works to “boost the profile and reputation”  of the company if they choose the right problem to support.  He also suggests to choose:

Only a few social issues

Those of concern in the communities where they do business

That have synergy with their mission, values etc.

That your employees, target markets, customers and investors care about

That can be supported over a long time.

probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2015/03/hoe-do-you-develop-a-great-csr-program

When speaking to a couple of potential partners, it was clear they do have a need to communicate issues relating to their own particular operations. Often they have their own Community Relations Managers and publication programs for this reason.  They are also interested in the large number of visits you have to your libraries.  So there does seem to be an opportunity if we approach partners correctly and if we care about the needs of the potential partners.

The key benefits libraries can offer them are:

  • You have 52 public libraries spread around Victoria, and if this is successful it could spread to the rest of Australia. So libraries have a huge geographic spread.
  • Libraries are neutral
  • Your collections of course are very important
  • According to NASL there are 112 million visits per year
  • Assisting teenagers or younger children will be seen as a “good“ thing to do to satisfy Corporate Social Responsibility goals

BUT …we will have to be careful about how we approach them.  We will need to be familiar with their goals and aspirations and we will need to be able to put forward a proposal that they see will reward them for their assistance.  So both our partners and our libraries will need recognition and publicity for their activities supporting the improvement of STEM literacy.

Why have I omitted just begging for bigger budgets from government?

Because I don’t believe it is worth begging for funds until I believe I have a product that is worth begging for.  Since 2014 the library community has been silent about wanting to contribute to this national goal.  When we have not expressed interest as a profession, and except for some isolated beginnings, we have not developed a program, why would government at a time of budget crises and competing demands for funds around the country want to offer funds for a “potential” product?

I think it is best to get organised in other ways.  We need to research, plan and start in a small way and as we grow seek publicity and then we will be in a position where government will find it in their best interest to extend funding to the INFORMAL EDUCATORS!

What next?   

It is up to you need to decide.

  • Who is keen to get involved with getting this underway?
  • Do you need to form a small planning group looking at the types of projects you my try to offer first?
  • What are the staffing and financial and legal issues?
  • Will it be successful if you all approach potential partners beyond your local schools and local supporters in an ad hoc way?
  • Would it be better to have a coordinated and planned approach to potential partners?
  • What partners do you want to approach?
  • What is the best way to approach them?
  • Who will collect the information you need on potential partners?
  • Who will you contact in the schools and how? School librarians?  Or the staff supervising STEM education?
  • Is it possible to develop a program whereby specific projects are moved from library to library?
  • How will you seek publicity – with centralised Press Releases from PLVN?

To conclude –

I think you have a great opportunity to be the most effective INFORMAL EDUCATORS for STEM literacy in Australia because you are already half way there with your collections, your commitment to lifelong learning, your geographic and socio economic spread, your skills, your neutral environments.    You will not be alone – many in other parts of the world are already very active.

I believe it is a journey worth taking and that you will all find it very fulfilling.  I hope you do too.

I wish you luck and I am available to help you with your research – for free of course!!

Appendix

Here are some of the potential partners identified and why they appear to be worth approaching once a proposal template has been developed.

 

Potential partner Why Topics
CSL One of Australia’s most successful biotech companies is

based in Melbourne.

VaccinesViruses

Bacteria

Stem cells

RACV Aims to: “provide a source of philanthropic funding for

Victorian …community organisationsin order to enhance

quality of life”http://www.racv.com.au/wps/wcm/connect/

racv/Internet/Primary/about+RACV/community+engagement

/RACV+community+foundation

RadarAutomotive engineering
AMCOR Amcor has been awarded a gold rating in the 2014

Corporate Social Responsibilityassessment conducted

by EcoVadis

Biodegradable packagingPaper making

Plastics

BHP Education – promoting improved economic independence

by working to increasegraduation rates and improve

employability in disadvantaged populations, supporting

projects that seek to increase science, technology,

engineering and mathematics

education in target communities

Minerals and mining
BOEING Boeing is among the largest aerospace and defense

contractors in the world, and itscharitable giving

shows it. The funder gave close to $200 million

in a recent year.

Complementing employee donations, the corporation

and its charitable fund give

quite a bit in grants, with one focus on education.

AerospaceDefence technology
ENERGY AUSTRALIA Energy Australia gives grants to community groups. EnergyMining
AGRICULTURE VICTORIA Agriculture Victoria has given grants for bushfire

training

BushfiresIrrigation
OI- Owens Illinois Glass  and plastics container manufacturer Glass technologyPlastics technology

Engineering

Recycling

SHELL AUSTRALIA Corporate Social Responsibility can become

a source of tremendous socialprogress also works

to boost the profile and reputation of the company that

chooses the right social problem to champion

and alleviate, writes CSR strategist Dora Nikols.

Environmental science relating to oceans, beaches
ALCOA
Alcoa Foundation has supported6 Geelong community

groups with

US$559,000 in grants

Bauxite mining, refining and smelting of aluminium.
BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY The Bureau has a huge list of resources for children

relating to their activities.

MeteorologyClimate Science
VIRIDIAN – CSR Flat glass is made by spreading molten glass on a

molten bath of tin! CSRworks with the Australian

Business and Community Network (ABCN), a partnership

of highly committed national business leaders and

companies working on mentoring

and coaching programs in schools in high needs areas.

Solar panelsAutomotive glass

Window glass & energy

AUSTRALIAN VETERINARY ASSOCIATION Aims to be the health and welfare leader in Australian’s

animal industries.

Pets and People
PARKS VICTORIA Position Parks Victoria to be more digitally/socially

engaging through the innovative use of technology

and communications.

ForestryBotany

Bushfires

MPAU Marketing – Melbourne VIC on behalf of FORD This team represents the future of innovation in Australia

as they design, engineer and test vehicles with leading

quality, fuel economy, safety and smart technologies.

They also are part of a global team that is exploring the

future of transportation where we will need to serve

customers of the future in new and different ways.

Automotive engineering
NUTRITION AUSTRALIA  Engagement Manager Nutrition Australia Vic Division is dynamic medium sized

not for profit organisation that aims to ‘Inspire Healthy

Eating’ through the delivery of nutrition education

programs, services and products to all sectors of the

community.

Nutrition

Physiology?

JOHN HOLLAND  Communications and Stakeholder Manager We believe the way we engage with communities

and stakeholders is just as important as designing

brilliant engineering solutions.We want to set new

standards in the community and stakeholder

engagement space.

 

Civil EngineeringBuilding & Construction
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN COLLEGE OF GENERAL PRACTITIONERSCommunications & Media Advisor The RACGP’s activities focus on the six key areas of

standards, quality, education, advocacy, professional

leadership and collegiality

Medicine
MMG LIMITED – Senior Specialist Social Development MMG Limited is a global resources company that mines,

explores and develops base metal projects globally.

We are one of the world’s largest producers of zinc and

a substantial producer of copper, lead, gold and silver.

-to create single point accountability for the support of

community engagement strategies and social

development programs in the communities in which

we operate.

MiningGeology
BASEBALL VICTORIA  – Communications and Digital Marketing  Coordinator responsible for ensuring baseball’s stories, values,

product offerings and other key messages are

appropriately and creatively communicated to the

wider general public, via traditional and

non-traditional means.

Sports technology
SPECSAVERS – Local PR Manager Manage the Specsavers Community Program

(in-store giving program)

Optometry
INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS AND FRAGRANCES  – Dandenong VIC Creation of compelling marketing material for IFF

internal team and external customers (e.g. banners,

posters, handouts, folders, flyers, brochures, calendars

and other marketing materials as required).To enhance

IFF’s image and branding by ensuring the visibility of and

access to marketing materials created by regional marketing.

Food science & Technology
AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPH By maintaining rigorous entry criteria and a binding

Code of Ethics for members, as well as providing

ongoing education via seminars, workshops, and

events, the AIPP is a brand of trust in the photographic industry

Photographic  & image technologies
THE BODY SHOP  – Communications Manager Delivering a national-wide public relations strategy.

Passion for CSR programs which make a difference to

people, communities and the environment – ultimate

goal of acquiring new customers whilst retaining

existing clientele

The science of cosmetics &Skincare
AUSTRALIA POST Provide phone and email support to community group

applicants throughout the grants program process,

including pre-application, assessment and announcement

stages. This includes the provision of timely responses

to enquiries and requests, with particular regard to eligibility

Telecommunications
THE AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS SERVICE – Develop, implement and monitor territory plans –

acquisition, growth and retention of donors
– In conjunction with internal stakeholders, initiate

local community engagement activities
– Provide education to organisations and groups

to promote the benefits of donating blood

PhysiologyHealth

Medicine

AUSTRALIAN SYNCHROTON The media and social media, corporate communications,

education and outreach and events strategies and

activities of the organisation.

Nuclear Science
ORIGIN ENERGY Maintain social licence, protect and enhance Origin’s

reputation in the communities in which we operate.

Oil & Gas mining
MICROSOFT Microsoft recognises EWB’s work with US$50,000 grant – Engineers …http://tinyurl.com/jptn3kc

Oct 15, 2015 – Funding such as the Microsoft grant

can have a significant impact

Computing
GOOGLE Google has granted $1 million of funding to three not-for-profits

to nurture young Australians’ career ventures in science, technology, …

Computing
DCNS Subsidiary of French naval shipbuilder in ACT
  • Naval engineering and design
  • Integration of combat systems and equipment
  • Civil nuclear energy
  • Renewable marine energies

 

The Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institute The Surveying & Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) is

Australia’s peak body representing the interests of

surveying and spatial science professionals, combining

the disciplines of land surveying, engineering & mining

surveying, cartography, hydrography, remote sensing

and spatial information science.

 

  • Satellites
  • Sensors
INTEL Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Intel

believes that young people are the key to solving global

challenges. A solid math and science foundation coupled

with skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and

problem solving are crucial for their success. To help

educators foster the next generation of innovators,

Intel provides STEM curriculum, competitions, and

online resources to encourage students’ interest and participation.http://support.intel.co.jp/content/www/

us/en/education/k12/stem.html

 

 


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