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Learning about Earth and space science over time can lead to a payload of interest …

The Universe of Stories summer reading theme and Rocket Camp Week at the Stephen’s Central Library in San Angelo, TX, proved to be a great ride this past summer. Summer reading and Rocket Camp are activities that the library has had in the past, but something new at the library this year helped patrons gain a better understanding of Earth and space. In early spring, the library installed a NASA@ My Library display designed to gage people’s interest in Earth and space science and to determine if people’s interest grows over time.

Spring theme – Earth

The NASA@ My Library Patron Experience Pilot (PEP) project team in collaboration with the assistant library director Wanda Green worked to place the four-sided NASA@ My Library display near the first-floor circulation desk at the library. From March to late-April, it contained information, images, and activities about Earth in anticipation of Earth Day. There were large dramatic images of Earth taken from space on two sides of the display, a third side had a reading panel that described the images, and the fourth side included lists of activities and events in and around the library that patrons could participate in, as well as a fun question to vote on by placing a sticker next to one of three answers. The display’s content changed every two weeks, but the main theme stayed the same until the culminating Earth Day celebration at the library. Multiple images of the Grand Canyon (week 1 and 2), Mount Everest (week 3 and 4), and Meteor Crater (week 5 and 6), showed how these places look from space highlighting their unique physical makeup. All the images are open source from NASA and available for download online. The Earth Day celebration took place on Monday April 22 and had over 200 people in attendance.

Summer theme – Universe of Stories

The Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) reading program theme of a Universe of Stories, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and Rocket Camp Week all helped shape the next display theme, activities, and events at the library for the summer. The theme focused on the technological advancements in flight that lead up to the lunar missions of Apollo. Again, with the display changing every two weeks, the first week started with Sputnik and Explorer 1, week 3 changed to the X15, and then future weeks included the Mercury missions, Mariner missions, Gemini, and finally Apollo 11, 13, and 17 missions.

During the summer Rocket Camp week, many activities took place in the library and around town. Thirty-six students from 6th through 12th grades learned about the engineering design process, science data collection methods, history of rockets, propulsion systems, rocketry software, solar system science, and astrobiology in a week long all day camp. Students designed and built solid state rockets, from scratch, with the assistance of library and Angelo State University Engineering and Physics faculty. Students then launched their rockets and spent the final day of camp analyzing data, visiting with Solar System Ambassador Annie Wargetz, creating displays based on what they learned for the art museum, and learning how to present that data to a younger audience. The students from the rocketry camp then presented rocketry activities to over 1,500 children who attended STEAM Family Day at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Art.

Fall theme – International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)

The work continues with the next display theme being about the moon and leading up to International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) on October 5. Not only will the NASA@ My Library display explore the moon, but there will be a star gazing party on the evening of the 5th on the rooftop of the library that will allow patrons a chance to see characteristics on the moon in real time through telescopes and binoculars.

Data Collection

Data collection on the display focuses on how patrons interact with the display, which include a count on how many times a flap was lifted on a panel to how many stickers were placed on the voting question. Surveys and interviews at the display, activities, and events added to the information. No individual data was collected at the display without specific permission. Analysis of these data by the interest development researcher should tell the NASA@ My Library PEP team and the library staff which things can be implemented in the library to help people realize an interest and possibly increase interest in, in this case, Earth, space, and NASA science. Early analysis is very promising with a majority of the people who have seen the display reporting that they visit the display regularly to see the updates and are increasingly interest in the topics.

The NASA@ My Library Patron Experience Pilot (PEP) project team includes the Space Science Institute, Cornerstones of Science, an interest development researcher and assistant researcher, and the library. The Stephen’s Central Library branch of the Tom Green County Library System is one of 70 NASA@ My Library partner libraries and is the first pilot library of the PEP project. The NASA@ My Library project is made possible through a NASA Cooperative Agreement (No. NNX16AE30A).