Grant helps integrate education into library
Wilton one of 15 libraries chosen in U.S.
WILTON – Of necessity, libraries are becoming much more than just stacks of books and magazines.
They are a growing part of the community and taking a bigger part in education, supplementing school programs and providing community services.
In November, the Wilton Public & Gregg Free Library was awarded a grant to participate in a nationwide Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces project led by the Online Computer Library Center, headquartered in Ohio.
Wilton was one of 15 libraries chosen, and one of only two in New England. The other library is in Henniker. The project is in partnership with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries.
The grant proposal was written by Youth Services Director Stephanie Loiselle at the last minute.
"Just before deadline in October," she said. "We decided to give it a try.
"Smart Spaces are active learning centers, ways to implement education in the library and involve the community."
Loiselle’s program is "Full STEAM ahead," which includes science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
"We’ve had experiments in chemistry, building things and a special math program, Crazy Eights," she said. "We do things like play football with toilet paper rolls and bouncing dice. It’s fun."
In January, Loiselle will attend classes in Atlanta as one of 10 participants to learn how to prepare middle school children for college through College Career Readiness.
"It’s the first of three courses," she said. Programs will begin at the library when she returns.
Loiselle was trained as a STEM docent through the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. She used that training in writing her grant proposal.
The middle-high school has a STEM program.
"Arts was added," Library Director Pat Fickett said, "because we’re a library."
The Wilton library was selected from 106 applicants. Participating libraries come from 12 states across the country in communities serving from 1,000-21,000 people. The winners were chosen on the basis of their existing program, commitment to economic and educational success, and enthusiasm for bringing the community into the library.
Creating Smart Spaces encourages the "big picture thinker," according to its information sheet, "one who can manage minute details and get people excited about long-term projects."
Loiselle will be guided through the training program by WebJunction, the learning arm of OCLC research. Participants will apply what they learn to reimagine and reconfigure library spaces to support community social programs that address a specific community need.
OCLC, founded in 1967, is a nonprofit, international library cooperative providing technology services, research and community programs to help libraries promote research and innovation. OCLC members produce and maintain WorldCat, a global network of library services and collections.
"Wilton is so fortunate to have a youth librarian like Stephanie," Fickett said. "She seeks out educational opportunities that are very unusual for a small library."
Loiselle said that considering the weather in New Hampshire, she was looking forward to a week in Atlanta in January.