A Little About Us

ssi-ncil-logos-aboutThe Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) provides interactive STEM exhibits, programming, and training to public libraries nationwide through its Science‐Technology Activities and Resources Library Education Network (STAR_Net). Core partners include the American Library Association (ALA), Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance. Other partners include Engineers Without Borders-USA, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, the National Renewable Energy Lab, American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, Association of Rural and Small Libraries, and many more. NCIL received funding from NSF in 2014 to build upon previous work and provide:

  • Large hands-on library exhibits, which are on national tours: Discover Space, Discover Earth, and Discover Tech
  • A small exhibits program (Explore Earth, Explore Tech, and Explore Space), which includes six double-sided graphic panels, a computer kiosk, and activities for a Discover Station
  • Resources to implement hands-on activities for different age groups in the library setting
  • Online and in-person training for library staff, which introduces them to the STEM content of the exhibits, and guides them in developing complementary programming
  • A comprehensive outreach program (led by the Afterschool Alliance)
  • A growing community of practice (CoP) that includes a resource clearinghouse, blogs, a monthly newsletter, special events, and funding opportunities (www.starnetlibraries.org)

Nationwide Reach

Additional funding from NASA, National Institutes of Health, Lego Foundation, and KEVA Education has extended the reach of STAR_Net, and the STEM resources are in use by public libraries nationwide, as shown in the map below.

In addition to exhibits, the project team developed a variety of STEM activities related to Earth science, engineering and technology, and space science. The team provides training in the form of in-person workshops, conference sessions, and online webinars. Through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, NCIL and the Cornerstones of Science are developing a resource clearinghouse to disseminate STAR_Net resources to public library staff, along with content from other sources of high-quality STEM program activities.

The project team is informed by rigorous evaluation and research efforts. The summative evaluation for Phase 1 utilized mixed methods to investigate project implementation and its outcomes. Methods included pre- and post-exhibit surveys administered to staff from each library that hosted the exhibits; interviews with staff from host libraries; patron surveys; exhibit-related circulation records; web metrics regarding the online STAR_Net CoP; and site visits to five Discover Earth and Discover Tech libraries, during which patrons and library staff were observed and interviewed. A national survey about STEM in Public Libraries was conducted in spring 2014 as part of the project’s front-end evaluation.In addition to exhibits, the project team developed a variety of STEM activities related to Earth science, engineering and technology, and space science. The team provides training in the form of in-person workshops, conference sessions, and online webinars. Through funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, NCIL and the Cornerstones of Science are developing a resource clearinghouse to disseminate STAR_Net resources to public library staff, along with content from other sources of high-quality STEM program activities.

Project Impacts

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Number of People that Visited
STAR_Net Discover Exhibits
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Number of People that Participated
in Programs at Host Libraries
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Number of Librarians/STEM professionals that are Members of STAR_Net Community
Professional Development
Professional development for librarians and library staff is conducted at conferences, regional workshops and online. Sign up to get the latest newsletter updates!
STEM Exhibits
The STAR_Net Project currently has 8 exhibits traveling to libraries across the country. Head over to the Projects page to learn more about these exhibitions!
Hands-on Programs
Looking for hands-on programs to do with your patrons? Head over to the STEM Resource Clearinghouse to get access to STAR_Net approved activities!