From Our Town to Outer Space (FOTOS): Bringing NASA science and engineering to underserved communities through a national public library exhibition program – Final Evaluation Report
In 2014 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded a Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitor Centers Plus Other Opportunities grant to Space Science Institute’s (SSI) National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) called From Our Town to Outer Space (FOTOS). The three-year grant brought STEM learning experiences around NASA disciplines to six public libraries through a traveling exhibit called Discover NASA, associated programming for library patrons, training, resources, and a virtual community of practice for library staff and others who were interested in bringing STEM programming to libraries. The project had a special focus on delivering NASA content and programming to underserved and underrepresented communities across the United States. FOTOS is a STAR Library Network (STAR Net) program (www.starnetlibraries.org).
Education Development Center conducted the summative evaluation of the FOTOS project, investigating the implementation of the project and its impact on library staff and patrons. Methods included pre- and post-exhibit surveys administered to staff from each library that hosted the exhibit; interviews with staff from host libraries; patron surveys; and site visits to two Discover NASA host libraries to observe and interview patrons and library staff.
The majority of participating library staff and patrons were enthusiastic about the Discover NASA exhibit and all host libraries viewed the exhibit as a success for their library. Youth and adult library patrons at FOTOS host libraries became more interested in, and engaged in, the NASA/STEM topics presented in the Discover NASA exhibit and related programming. Exhibition attendance was considered high by library staff and at some libraries, actually increased their overall library attendance and/or new patron registrations. The libraries (4 of 6) reporting circulation statistics for Discover NASA related materials showed increases in ranging from 17% to 182%. All host libraries offered programming associated with the Discover NASA exhibit topics and several offered tours of the exhibit, field trips for local schools, and other special events outside regular library hours such as a star gazing parties and “special movie nights.”
Prior to the FOTOS project most host libraries had little access to STEM programming. The project provided training, programming/activities, and resources for libraries to use or develop their own programming and then implement it in their libraries.
The Discover NASA exhibit and programming in host libraries was effective in reaching underserved library populations. FOTOS host libraries identified audiences historically underrepresented in STEM fields in their communities and then successfully provided STEM learning experiences that included attendees from those targeted audiences. In addition, all FOTOS libraries were successful in attracting participation representative of their communities’ demographics overall.
Appendix includes survey and logic model.