Seismic activity coming to Merrimack Public Library

The Merrimack Public Library has an exciting educational opportunity to partner with the Boston College Educational Seismology Project to bring a fully functional seismograph to Merrimack.

The BC-ESP is a hands-on, inquiry-based, science, math and technology project through the study of earthquakes as a learning focus. In this partnership, scientists from the Weston Observatory of Earth and Environmental Sciences will train library staff and patrons – anyone who wishes to become “citizen scientists” – how to read and analyze data collected from seismic events around the world.

The information night is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, with Alan Kafka, the director of the Weston Observatory, speaking.

“Seismographs measure the pulse of the Earth, and provide direct information about earthquakes, plate tectonics and the structure of the Earth’s interior,” Kafka said. “Thus, having their own seismograph in the library gives your patrons a way of collecting real-world data and making measurements that provide them with an understanding of the internal structure of the Earth and processes by which the Earth changes.”

The BC-ESP has been active throughout Massachusetts for many years. Merrimack Public Library would be the first library location in New Hampshire to join the project and become part of the international network of seismic monitoring centers.

The initial total cost of joining the project is $10,218, which purchases the equipment, as well as on-site installation, noise studies and training led by the seismologists. The Library Trustees are in the process of soliciting pledges from local businesses and private citizens to cover the expense of participating.

Partnership in the BC-ESP provides the library with an opportunity to expand beyond a traditional focus on print and media literacy to promote technology literacy that incorporates critical thinking and problem solving skills. The library is highlighting technology literacy and learning for all ages as part of its 2014 lifelong learning goals. 

The Merrimack School District School Board has endorsed the partnership in the BC-ESP. Chair Chris Ortega wrote a letter of support stating that they believe this project will “further engage students into the world of inter-disciplinary science research.” Sally Agel, an eighth-grade science teacher at Merrimack Middle School, is very eager for the seismograph to be brought to Merrimack.

“Merrimack students study earthquakes as part of the eighth grade earth science curriculum,” Agel wrote. “With a working seismograph in town, students could go to the library to see the actual seismograph in action, record the local data and compare it to other data from other areas around the world. Seeing a seismograph in action … would inform them when they build their own models.”   

Furthermore, because the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge theme is “Spark a Reaction,” there is an opportunity to build interest in science learning through hands-on study throughout the summer.

The educational opportunities are endless, not only for children and students, but for residents of all ages who want to become “citizen-scientists.” 

Anyone interested in more information about the project can contact Library Director Yvette Couser by email at ycouser@
merrimacklibrary.org or by phone at 424-5021. Donations can be made out to “Merrimack Public Library” with “seismograph” in the notes line.

Yvette Couser is the Merrimack Public Library director.