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STEM+M: Boosting Education and Library Participation through Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Music

June 1, 2013
Kids run and play in front of an outdoor musical performance

Gleason Public Library
22 Bedford Rd
Carlisle, MA 01741

Grants to States Program through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Katie Huffman, Director
(978) 369-489


A youth music event at the library

Our seismograph and related programs have been well received by our patrons. Young students learned how to build and test their own seismometers. Older students explored the structure of the earth's interior. And all ages enjoyed a lecture discussing recent earthquakes in New England. STEM+M events continue to be a major part of our programming here at Gleason Public Library.

-- Steve Golson
Gleason Library Trustee

Getting young learners interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and improving STEM education are national priorities. The Gleason Public Library realized that the library could play a major role in sparking interest and providing hands-on education in STEM within the community. A poll of library visitors also indicated a community interest in music and musical performances, which research has shown has a cognitive link with math. With IMLS funding and support from the Library Endowment’s Susan Zielinksi Natural Science Fund, the library embarked on a multi-faceted program to enhance STEM and Music (STEM+M) learning and participation.

From fall 2011 through summer 2012, the library hosted 19 adult programs and 6 teen/children’s programs in science and technology, along with 10 adult and youth music events and activities. One astronomy event led youth on a walk through the community, using local landmarks to learn about relative distances in space. A stargazing program introduced learners to the transit of Venus. The library featured several lecturers on various science topics and music appreciation. A new science fiction book club includes discussion of science topics, and a concert on the library lawn helped bring in community members who rarely visit the library.

Seismography Spurs STEM Interest

Educational activities around seismography have been a major draw for the library. Boston College, as part of its Educational Seismology Program, recently expanded its network of seismographs to include selected local libraries. Gleason’s seismograph is part of the New England Seismic Network. Library visitors of all ages are captivated by the ability to see seismic activity from around the world, while the library website ( lets visitors see what the seismograph is recording in real time. The library also coordinated with local schools to incorporate use of the seismograph in the sixth grade earth science curriculum.

Showcasing STEM+M

The library enhanced its collections with educational media and streaming music. It reorganized shelving and created new displays to showcase new STEM books and media, and updated its technology corner to better introduce visitors to available resources and services. Library staff also developed two reading maps to guide readers, including one for the 2012 community-wide reading of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (an historically-rooted exploration of medical research and ethics), and one as a guide to dystopian and post-apocalyptic nonfiction for science fiction fans.

In addition to drawing new visitors, the program spurred new curiosity within the community. Reference inquiries increased about 24 percent, while questions about technology and computers rose 33 percent, and research requests in general increased 166 percent. Library staff members report that that these trends have continued.

Grants to State Library Administrative Agencies