Lighting Up Community Collaborations Through Academic Libraries

Lighting Up Community Collaborations Through Academic Libraries

Thura Mack, Kristina Clement, Chloe J. Freeman, Madison Betcher
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-2515-2.ch004
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The Big Orange STEM Saturday (BOSS) at the University of Tennessee (UT) Libraries is an innovative and interactive educational program. This program focuses on creating pathways to college for underrepresented high school students by introducing them to the possibilities of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). At its core, BOSS is a highly collaborative event that relies heavily on developing strong partnerships and collaborations between the UT Libraries, local high schools, and programs for underrepresented high school students. This chapter presents a case study of the BOSS program with both the natural and intentional partnerships that the UT Libraries developed and sought over the last eight years. It also showcases recommended practices for developing community partnerships and questions for other academic libraries and librarians to ask themselves when considering community partnerships and collaborations.
Chapter Preview

Literature Review

Although the UT BOSS program was one of the first of its kind to gain popularity, several other universities and libraries have created similar programs with community collaboration and academic promotion. It is important to note that there are a number of STEM outreach programs that connect pre-college students with higher education. This literature review will go over several of these programs that make an impact on preparing the students to access different career paths and improve skill literacy in STEM fields.

There are several programs in higher education that seek to introduce pre-college students to the potential of STEM careers. Louisiana State University (LSU) hosts an annual program that offers free college preparatory classes to high school students while providing assistance for the American College Test (ACT) (Williams et al., 2019). The program reflects the value and benefits of serving underrepresented students through focused outreach. This program is called the LSU Upward Bound (LSU-UB). Williams et al. state:

The LSU-UB program’s objective is to holistically motivate and provide low-income and first-generation students with the comprehensive skill set needed to obtain a college degree. ‘First generation’ is an underrepresented group, and the term brings a common denominator of barriers and challenges for students and their families when it comes to educational access and opportunity. (p. 12).

A second example of this type of program and outreach project is National Lab Day (NLD);a short-term initiative from 2009-2010 (National Science Foundation, 2010). It partnered with the National Science Foundation, National Science Teachers Association, the American Chemical Society, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (National Science Foundation, 2010). NLD was an annual program that focused on promoting hands-on learning and on-going connectivity within the community. NLD was originally developed to meet similar needs of the LSU-UB program in providing a non-traditional way of appealing to students’ STEM development and growth. NLD invited high school students to participate in a day-long event where they engaged in hands-on learning and lectures with STEM research professionals and K-12 educators. Multiple colleges participated in NLD to introduce college-bound students to their programs and prepare them to contribute to community outreach. When NLD was adapted at Oklahoma State University, leaders realized the importance of catchy session titles and including science-oriented undergraduate and graduate volunteers to assist in the event (Angle et al., 2016).

Programs like NLD foster positive relationships between students and possible STEM careers. During these events, students gain real-world experience in STEM fields from professionals who are also able to search for potential employees (Angle et al., 2016). These programs present opportunities for both students and STEM professionals alike. The literature shows that STEM topics are growing in popularity in K-12 and higher education institutions. Recruiting interested students now as well as promoting further STEM-accessible opportunities benefits not just those directly involved but also the community, those working in the STEM fields, and program partners as well (Flash et al., 2017).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Partnerships: Supportive relationships between collaborators that help meet the goals of the program.

Underrepresented Students: Students from traditionally underserved populations who are less likely to attend college due to lack of resources, knowledge, access, and support.

STEM: Acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Community: Entities outside of the university libraries (i.e., K-12 schools, other university departments, local municipalities, local government, etc.).

Boss: Acronym for the Big Orange STEM Saturday, a half-day conference for high school students who are interested in STEM careers.

Academic Library: The library that serves the university or college community by supporting research needs and curricular needs.

Hands-On Learning: Engagement of students in activities that promote active learning in which students learn critical thinking skills through problem-solving.

Collaboration: Working together to achieve a mutually beneficial goal for a program or practice.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: