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.