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Family Science Night

Johnson County Library
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Innovation Leader: Erin Howerton, School Liaison, Johnson County Library , erindowney@gmail.com

Problem Statement

As lead for an IMLS grant that funded a metro partnership for KC Science, INC (Inspiring Natural Curiosity) in 2006 - 2008, the Johnson County Library wanted to continue on its own the large scale Family Science Night programs that had drawn thousands of people of all ages. The challenge was lack of funding.

Innovation

Repositioning Family Science Night in 2009 as a Summer Reading Club kick-off event had three objectives: 1) Connecting summer reading fanatics with science, conveying an alternate image of the library as a place to do, create, and discover ; 2) changing perceptions of reading from a passive activity to an active one; and 3) stabilizing program funding . Exhibitors – many with hands-on activities – included area science organizations, science fair winners, science clubs, and university organizations. Kids enjoy the activities, exhibit with their school groups, or volunteer to help run the event with library staff. Families experience inspiration and gather ideas for summer activities.

Evaluation forms were drawing entries for prizes (MP3 players loaded with audio books and science promotions, science toys, bird books, star maps, etc.). Prizes were purchased with the entire budget of $500 (summer reading fund). This constant funding stream combined with the overhead-free library venue resolved funding issues, and a second event is scheduled for May 2010 to kick off summer reading. After experience with the 2009 event, staff will use approximately 20 hours for planning the 2010 event.

Progress

As a summer reading kick-off, Family Science Night achieved both its objectives for library patrons while also achieving a constant funding stream and becoming an economical and “delightful” way to continue KC Science, INC programming. As one of the library’s highest-attended events, this event garners significant attention in the community through both mainstream press and word-of-mouth. In fact, it has become a model for many local schools wanting to design their own science programming on smaller scales. They see that, if the library can do it, anyone can do it.

Survey results indicate a very high level of satisfaction with the event: “walking in was an amazing experience,” seeing the library transformed into a science bazaar for the night. Kids appreciated “getting the chance to be messy,” and parents said it helped them get “great information about places we didn’t know about, but are interested in visiting.”

February 2007: 500 attendees
March 2008: 437 attendees
May 2009: 650 attendees