With a a grant of nearly $482,000 in hand, Utah State University researchers are setting out in their work to help rural libraries in Northern Utah.
They will work with both the North Logan City and Hyrum City libraries as well as libraries at the North Cache Center and the South Cache Center.
Dr. Victor Lee, USU associate professor in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences, is one of the project leaders.
“Right now we’re seeing a real transformation in what types of activities are happening in libraries,” said Dr. Lee. “We are starting to see STEM activities and ‘Maker’ activities with new technologies that are really easy to use but have not usually been accessible to rural areas.”
Dr. Lee, who is co-principal investigator on the project with Dr. Mimi Recker, said it is important early on in such a project to establish strong partnerships.
“Right now we are working with the North Logan City Library and the school library at the North Cache Center in Richmond, along with expansions that will happen in Hyrum and the South Cache Center later. We want to be able to understand what is happening in the libraries right now that we can build on.
“On the one hand, we don’t want to overload some very busy professionals there, but we want to help them understand some really cool potential that can come out of these new high tech experiences that library patrons can learn from, as well as the librarians themselves.”
USU has been involved in the maker movement from its earliest stages.
“Across the nation we are seeing the idea that anybody can be a maker, creating new things often times using new sorts of technology that you can pretty much buy off the shelves: easy to build circuit kits, doing your own music videos or music editing or creating new sorts of products that are even being featured on TV shows.
“By making them ourselves and exploring how to make our own robot or our own home alarm system, we are learning a lot of science and math and engineering and getting a real affinity for doing those sorts of activities in the future as a hobby and in our professional lives.”
Dr. Lee said there hasn’t been enough thought about how to help librarians transition to the new ways of relating to information because it is a very different challenge than what they were originally trained for and have been doing for past decades.
“As we have had more access to information, like the internet and with smart phones and so forth, the way we are relating to information is changing.”
He said the goal, in using this grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is to help rural libraries continue toward a future that is more interactive and high-tech.