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Rural Library Opens a Window to the World of STEM with Grant from Science Kits for Public Libraries

Cropped SKPL Logo

For 15 years, Science Kits for Public Libraries (SKPL) has been providing grants to libraries in rural areas, small towns, and cities across the Midwest. These grants enable libraries to build circulating collections of science kits, which offer age-appropriate, hands-on materials for youngsters from kindergarten through middle school. These future engineers and scientists not only enjoy using the kits at the library — they’re also able to check kits out and bring them home…just like a book.

A Hardworking Community

Carlinville is a town with a population of 5,700 located in southwestern Illinois, not far from St. Louis, MO, USA. About 23% of Carlinville residents live at or below the poverty line, including 50% of school-aged children. In her report on the local program, Carlinville librarian Hannah Miller points out that despite economic challenges, the town has a strong history of volunteerism. 

Additionally,  her report revealed 81% of Carlinville households have internet, including all families with public school children in grades K-12. Through this research, it was determined that Carlinville was a community with a demonstrated need and reliable infrastructure where a SKPL grant could make a positive impact.

Preparing for Successful Circulation

Like all successful SKPL grant recipients, the library staff immediately got to work preparing the way for a circulating SKPL collection. They collaborated closely with teachers and visited local schools to introduce the program. They also educated patrons on SKPL, especially those who were new to the library.

Love of Science at All Ages

According to Miller, the Carlinville Library team chose kits that were great for all ages, and their deep understanding of their patrons paid off. Many families enjoyed the wildly popular Think Fun Gravity Maze, checking it out multiple times. Three science kits featuring Snap Circuits were also a big hit, with one family going through an entire booklet of ideas and creating all the projects at home. 

“Kids go crazy for magnetic building blocks,” Miller cheerfully shared, referring to the Magna-Tiles Building Kit. “Families often stop by the library to build with the tiles.”

It’s clear that wide-ranging enthusiasm for science is alive and well in Carlinville. An official Bee City USA destination, the town has been recognized for its efforts to provide a friendly environment for these vital pollinators. That local connection made the Pollinator Kit a natural (and very popular) choice for Carlinville patrons. 

A Bright Future for Carlinville

“The SKPL grant allowed us the amazing opportunity to enrich our offerings for kids and to purchase some really fun and interesting STEM kits,” Miller shared when we asked what SKPL meant to Carlinville. “We would never have been able to afford these kits without grant funds,” she confided. “Rural kids from poor, small towns often miss out on ‘extras’ like these kits.”

Miller’s reflection reveals the long-term value of the SKPL program itself:

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to offer STEM kits to our community’s kids and watch them gain interest and enthusiasm to learn even more. It’s wonderful any time you can open the window to the world a little wider for our kids. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish!

Hannah Miller

The future is bright for Carlinville, too. “The kits have exceeded all expectations and remain very popular,” Miller told us. “Just recently, I was able to find a good deal on a couple more kits (this time on coding and roller coaster engineering) to add to our collection soon. Thank you so much for starting STEM kits at our library! What a gift!”

For more information on how you can help inspire the next generation of scientists, visit IEEE’s Region 4 SKPL website to make a donation or apply for a grant to launch a new library program.

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