By Melissa Wagoner
“I don’t know the exact statistics, but I do know that the majority of well-paying jobs in the future will be in STEM,” Jackie Mills, Director of the Mt. Angel Public Library for the past four years, said of the need for more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.
“Anything the library and the community can do to prepare and support our kids in seeing themselves in these roles, to envision STEM jobs as possibilities, is investing in our most precious resource – our children – and investing in our economic future.”
With that thought in mind, Mills applied for the STAR Net STEAM Equity Project two years ago in the hopes of gaining funding in the amount of $15,000 over a four-year period toward the purchase of bilingual learning materials in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).
“As a library, we are in a perfect position to facilitate this,” Mills said. Now the Mt. Angel Public Library is become one of only 12 rural libraries in the nation – and the only one in Oregon – to participate in the project. “I am thrilled to be a part of such an endeavor.”
Divided into three public-facing divisions, the STAR Net STEAM Equity Program include a minimum of three STEM programs for tweens, teens and their families, a variety of STEM kits that can be checked out and taken home and an annual exhibit. The first titled, “Somos Super Creativ@s: We’re Super Creative,” started at the library in February.
Her plan calls for the STEM kits to be ready for checkout by early April. The contents will most likely include a science-based apparatus, resource books and a hands-on activity.
“I have plans for kits in the following areas: Oregon birds and animals, Oregon plants and bugs, a microscope with slides, astronomy, circuits, coding, robotic pets and more,” Mills listed. “I am always interested in receiving input, so anyone with ideas for other kits is welcome to contact me.”
As with all library programs, the STAR Net STEAM Equity Project’s success is contingent on widespread participation from the community.
“I am hoping to use this program to inspire tweens and teens – especially girls and Latinx tweens and teens – to fall in love with STEM. To see themselves as scientists now and as future engineers, astronauts, computer programmers, fill in the blank,” Mills put said.
“Ideally, the opportunities provided through this grant will enable them to be exposed to resources and ideas that they might not have access to under normal circumstances. And hopefully, such exposure will be a catalyst that will help them see a panorama of possibilities.”
To do that, Mills knows she needs to get the word out that the library is more than just a place to find books.
“Besides programming for all ages, we offer, for free, e-books, e-audio books, e-magazines, and movie streaming,” she listed. “Our eResources include access to Ancestry, Consumer Reports, The New York Times, research databases, and more…
“Nowadays, libraries are also offering ‘things’ to check out, including tools, cake pans, instruments, seeds, and… cultural passes to four local attractions for free. We strive to be good neighbors in our community, to be good stewards of the resources that we are provided, and to provide excellent service and return on investment, every time.”
“Almost 30 percent of our folks are Latinx, but this is not reflected in who uses the library,” she said. That’s a statistic she hopes will change as the programs and materials the library offers change, becoming more reflective of community’s population as a whole.
“I hope that they will begin to see the library as a safe and welcoming place, a place to come when they need help, and a place that provides benefit and value to their lives,” Mills said.
Mt. Angel Public Library Programs
Community Helpers Family Storytime
Storytime backpack requests at 503-845-6401
Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. via Zoom link
Recorded at www.mtangelreads.readsquared.com
Stories and STEAM
Activity packets and suggested reading
Available at the library
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten
Starter kit available at the library
Teen Take and Make
Fifth grade and up
Craft instruction and supplies available at the library
Adult Book Discussion
Every third Thursday at 1 p.m. via Zoom link
Copies of the month’s book available in the library
STAR Net STEAM Equity Project
Tweens and teens
Annual exhibit – “Somos Super Creativ@s: We’re Super Creative”
Hands-on STEM programs
Take-home STEM Kits