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San Diego Science Festival

San Diego Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Melissa Martin, Science Librarian, mmartin@sandiego.gov

Problem Statement

There is a growing concern that the United States is not preparing our students well enough, in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. California’s fourth and eighth-graders rank behind 42 states in mathematics and next to last in science.

San Diego is a biotechnology center and is home to several renowned science institutions (Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego (UCSD), Salk Institute, etc.). According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, nearly 200,000 people are locally employed at 1,899 high tech and biotech companies. The number of jobs in science and engineering are increasing, but there are not a sufficient number of students prepared to step into these jobs.

Innovation

The San Diego Public Library is known for its diverse program offerings to the community, but very few of the programs are related to science. In 2009 the San Diego Science Festival (SDSF) contacted the Library about partnering in the first ever month long countywide festival that celebrated all things science. SDSF is a collaboration of more than 125 leading science organizations including the San Diego Science Alliance, CONNECT, BIOCOM, National Defense Industry Association (NDIA), and other key local organizations and media partners - and is organized by community members and the University of California, San Diego. The Library saw participation with SDSF as a winning opportunity to boost the Library’s science offerings and interest children, teens, and adults in science and demonstrate how science is a part of the world around us.

As an SDSF partner, the Library provided accessible locations for the programs. Staff scheduled speakers, panels, programming, and artwork for the festival. Events were held at several library locations on topics such as the science of running a marathon, exercise and weight loss and a look at the relationship between genes and music. Participants at events also learned more about the library and its numerous resources, including the staff.

Progress

In 2009, the first year of the festival and the first year of the Library’s participation, there were 13 programs hosted at Central Library and eight branches with a total attendance of 704 people. The La Jolla/Riford Branch, North University Community Branch and Central Library had a BIOCOMM “Cell Culture” wall art featuring microscopic research from the San Diego life science community. The Library also had a booth at the Science Expo held at Balboa Park, which had 300 free activities and 50,000 attendees. In 2010, the second year of the festival, the Rubik’s Cube tournament was so popular it had to be moved to a larger venue, so that 800 people could attend!