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Conference: Building Resilient Communities: A National Symposium that explores the role of public libraries in addressing local climate impacts

August 1, 2023 - January 31, 2025 | Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks, Public Programs

The conference will convene library leaders, climate researchers and educators, public health experts, and informal educators to examine the current prevalence of climate related programming in libraries, and how the concept of environmental health can be used by libraries to create locally and culturally relevant, change oriented, and equitable STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning experiences. The intention is for these experiences to be designed with (not just for) their communities increasing resilience and the ability to address hyper-local climate impacts. The conference will include 30 public library leaders, experts in environmental impacts due to climate change, public health experts, and experts in STEM education and informal learning. The purpose of the proposed conference is to bring together thought leaders and change makers across the fields of public libraries, informal STEM learning, and climate change science to catalyze action and research around the roles that libraries and community-based organizations can play in responding to environmental and health-related concerns due to climate change. The conference will advance knowledge by documenting current efforts and utilizing the experts participating to make recommendations for future research, action, and planning.

Informal education environments, such as libraries, are now seen as an untapped educational resource. While research and evaluation in museum settings has grown substantially, the potential of informal learning in libraries is still being explored. There is a need for research exploring how existing informal learning models can help predict and understand learning outcomes in a library setting. This conference project aims to identify and create recommendations for a research agenda across the area of public libraries, climate, and community involvement. Evaluation for the conference and related deliverables will be rooted in the Transformative Paradigm, which recognizes the pervasiveness of inequity and injustice in people's daily lives, and views the role of research and evaluation to be one of addressing and alleviating these societal problems. Specific deliverables for this project include: The national conference or symposium, four background reports to set the stage for the conference and to identify current salient issues, webinars for public library staff highlighting project and partner resources as well as the conference results, a webpage to disseminate conference activities and outputs, presentations at regional and national meetings, and the development of evaluation instruments meant to support and iterate on the project work. Project partners include the Space Science Institute's National Center for Interactive Learning, Web Junction, Interactive Learning Dynamics, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. With a focus on centering equity and building climate resilience in poorer communities, this conference targets the public librarians as the primary audience and will further cement the roles of public libraries as equitably accessed community spaces and critical anchor institutions in STEM learning ecosystems, particularly around the critical issues of climate change, public health, and misinformation about scientific processes related to both.


Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2314180
Funding Amount: $249,966.00


  • anne 200x215
    Principal Investigator
    Space Science Institute
  • Noah Lenstra
    Co-Principal Investigator
    University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • Steph Harmon
    Co-Principal Investigator
  • Paul Dusenbery
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Interactive Learning Dynamics
  • Resource Type: Projects | Project Descriptions | Projects
    Discipline: Climate
    Audience: Educators/Teachers | Learning Researchers
    Environment Type: Conferences | Library Programs
    Access and Inclusion: Low Socioeconomic Status

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