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Cornerstones of Science

How a small library transformed itself into a hub for science learning

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The Jesup Memorial Library – situated in a historic brick building in Bar Harbor, Maine – may have the look of a traditional library, but the feel is altogether different. When one walks in the door it’s immediately clear that there’s a vibrant, social vibe to the place. Jesup is not your typical community library – in fact, the place is transitioning from a passive provider of books to a dynamic hub focused on enabling community members to discover, learn, and collaborate around science. Part of this exciting transformation is due to a partnership with Cornerstones of Science.

“Great libraries are catalysts in their communities,” says library director Ruth Eveland who is at the forefront of the shifting mindset at Jesup, “with the help of a collaboration between Cornerstones and our state library, we’ve been able to connect people to some of our town’s most powerful resources.”

For a small town of only 5,435 year-round residents (and many more in the summer) Bar Harbor is home to some prominent centers for science, technology, and learning. Two major biological research laboratories (The Jackson Laboratory and MDI Biological Laboratory), a hospital, a college (College of the Atlantic), and wildly popular Acadia National Park all reside within the town.

“There’s a whole lot of science happening at all of those places,” says Eveland, but until Cornerstones came along, the library had not figured out how to take advantage of opportunities for partnership and cross-pollination with these powerful neighbors.

“The relationship with Cornerstones gave us a strategic approach to tackle how to bring quality science information to our community and get people engaged and interested in what was already happening here,” says Ruth.

Cornerstones and the state library challenged Eveland and her team to think outside the box. Because of the library’s proximity to the College of the Atlantic and Acadia National Park, Eveland knew that citizen science focused on plants, animals, marine science, and biology was already happening.

“What I needed to do was to think strategically about what wasn’t being covered by some of these organizations.” Eveland knew she wanted to focus on adult programming, so she eventually landed on three distinct areas of focus:

1. Genetics – Could the library find a way to help people understand the extraordinary research being done at The Jackson Laboratory and MDI Biological Laboratory? Eveland knew there was a ton of curiosity and interest, but many residents were intimidated by the prospect of visiting a research campus. The result has been an extensive series of programs for adults that cover everything from how to know you’re getting good science information, to conducting DNA testing on dogs in the community “doggie DNA,” to extracting DNA from a strawberry. The Jackson Lab collaboration is entering its fourth year.
2. Astronomy – Could the library, which had already been partnered with an enormously successful Acadia Night Sky Festival, seize the opportunity to further collaborate and become a partner site for the multi-day festival? The result has been a slew of Sunday programming, including an inflatable planetarium and a series of Sunday afternoon presenters. This program also makes use of a Cornerstones of Science Orion Telescope, which resides in the Jesup Library.
3. Hands-On “Maker” Technology – This idea relates to anything to do with hands-on “maker” technology. This program, which is still in development, has resulted in a program that engages local artist “makers” who are keen on having a local place to collaborate and work.

A Few Words of Wisdom
Eveland says developing these programs has taken time and effort, but the results have been profound and use of the library has increased dramatically. She cautions libraries not to take a cookie cutter approach to integrating STEM into their library curriculum. “Jesup is a reflection of our community,” says Eveland. “Other libraries must work with what they have as resources and with the needs and strengths of their own communities.”

The opportunity to work with Cornerstones was a game changer. “I was just so excited by this possibility because I had been trying to figure out a way to get more science programing here in the library.” Yet Jesup didn’t have the expertise in house to make it happen.

“There are rare occasions where a library will have someone who can do it all,” says Ruth. But every library has the opportunity to expand its programming in conjunction with the people in their community. “It requires having conversations with people, spurring their interest, and developing partnerships to help it move forward,” she said.

Bottom Line: Jesup Memorial Library’s partnership with Cornerstones and the state library helped activate a handful of extraordinary collaborations in a town of only 5,000 year-round residents. And now, the library is a fuller, more vibrant, and more accurate reflection of its community.

STEM Resources

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The Cornerstones of Science YouTube page now has a number of STEM related how-to and other videos for librarians. The newest additions are three how-to videos on using astronomical tools for viewing the night sky as part of our work with the NASA@ My Library project.

How-to-training videos on science tools

STEM Stories videos

Watch short videos from seven public libraries on their successes and challenges on becoming a strong STEM library as part of a recent Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant with the Maine State Library and Cornerstones of Science.


STEM Workshops:

Attend a NASA STEM Workshop with the Space Science Institute & Lunar Planetary Institute or host your own STEM training workshop



Webinar training opportunities for librarians will prepare librarians and librarian patrons for earth and space science events:

  • What’s Up! in June, July, and August
    Short 15 min. webinars to understand what astronomical activity is happening in June, July, and August. Presented by Cornerstones of Science and Southern Maine Astronomers.
    June 11th at 2 p.m. (EST) Register here
    July 9th at 2 p.m. (EST) Register here
    August 13th at 2 p.m. (EST) Register here
  • International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) Prep A 30 min. webinar to learn about all the resources available for InOMN, which takes place on Oct 5th this year. Presented by Cornerstones of Science on September 10th at 2 p.m. (EST) Register here

Try a Hands-on Astronomy Activity

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In March, Cornerstones of Science participated in the Maine Science Festival at the Bangor Civic Center in Bangor, Maine. Telescopes and space science books were set up on tables so that participants young and old could get some hands-on time with these tools and resources while inside the building.

Recreate this experience at your library (active or passive activity):

  1. Turn the optical tube so that the eyepiece is at the right height for your audience (loosen the clamshell and turn the optical tube down for youth or up for adults). If you have multiple telescopes, leave one set lower and the other one higher. (see zoom eyepieces in photos)
  2. Use the EZ Finder to locate an object down a long hallway or outside (do not point the telescope at the sun of have it where others could accidentally point it at the sun).
  3. Once you have found an object, tighten down the adjustment knob on the side of the telescope so that the optical tube does not move.
  4. Look through the zoom eyepiece to see the object. You may need to move the optical tube slightly up/down or side to side to get the object into view.
  5. Use the focuser knob to get the object clear and in focus.
  6. Turn the Zoom eyepiece from wide angle (24mm) to a zoomed in magnified image (8mm).

Add to this experience with books about space, the moon, constellations, astronomers, and telescopes. Offer a monthly Evening Sky Map print out as a take home piece www.skymaps.com.

Telescope Donated to a Deserving Library

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Thomaston Public Library in Thomaston, Maine recently received their library telescope and training from Cornerstones of Science.  A series of interesting events led up to them taking delivery of the telescope that included a retiring Cornerstones board member with a passion for the library telescope program, and the library’s strong STEM engagement for their community.

At the end of 2018, Rudi Graf, a Cornerstones Board Member from 2014-2018, decided to retire from the board due to a health issue. The staff and board felt that they wanted to do something special to honor Rudi and the work he put into the organization. Donating a library telescope to a deserving library seemed to be the perfect idea, since the program was much beloved by Rudi, previous owner of The Science Source, a science kit development and distribution company in Waldoboro, Maine. At the same time, Cornerstones staff noticed a number of STEM initiatives that the Thomaston Public Library initiated in the past year. One such initiative was the impressive 40 Days of Summer program where they not only borrowed every Cornerstones Science Trunk to use for programming, but they held numerous other activities to help the community’s youth stay engaged throughout the summer.

A small dedication ceremony took place at the library on November 15 with Rudi Graff in attendance along with CoS staff, library staff, and library patrons.

Congrats to the Thomaston Public Library! See what they do http://www.thomaston.lib.me.us/

To learn more about the CoS Library Telescope program visit https://www.cornerstonesofscience.org/products-services/telescope-program/

Head Librarian Diane Giese (left), Rudi Graf (center), and librarian Caroline Ward-Nesbit (right)

Citizen Science Guide for Libraries is Now Available

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Citizen Science Guide for Libraries is Now Available


Planning for Citizen Science Day has never been easier. The Librarians Guide to Citizen Science by SciStarter and The School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University (ASU) is a newly published resource specifically for libraries interested in engaging their communities in citizen science. Citizen Science Day is Saturday April 13 this year, so head on over the SciStarters Citizen Science Day webpage to find some great activities and resources as well as access to The Librarian Guide. Also, there are some impressive print-ready event materials that make it even easier to inform and remind patrons about your Citizen Science Day events and activities.

The Librarian Guide not only helps with Citizen Science Day, it goes beyond and into new ways to connect people to science throughout the year. Citizen Science activities can also be found on the Cornerstones of Science website and scrolling down to the Find a Project! section on the homepage.

We are excited to note that Cornerstones’ own Executive Director, Cynthia Randall, received a special mention on page 2 of the Guide:

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Cynthia Randall, Executive Director of Cornerstones of Science, for providing the foundation for this Guide and for her professional guidance in supporting public libraries as vibrant community hubs for citizen science.

Cynthia has been a champion for science in libraries as Cornerstones’ ED for 7 years now and her work is visionary and inspiring. This special thanks does not come as a surprise to those who work with her closely, but we are grateful to SciStarter and ASU for honoring her in this way.



Join a fellow Maine library and others in offering a Megathon event during Citizen Science Day! http://www.scarboroughlibrary.org/events/megathon

A Vision for Libraries, 20 Years in the Making

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A Vision for Libraries, 20 Years in the Making

Cornerstones of Science founder Lee Grodzins is an inventor, an MIT professor emeritus of physics, and cofounder of the Union of Concerned Scientists. In 1999, he initiated the award-winning Cornerstones of Science program in partnership with the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine. Since then, Cornerstones has evolved into a nonprofit organization backed by an expert board of directors, a dedicated staff, and a growing network of more than 300 public libraries around the country.

Public libraries: Trusted advocates for STEM learning

Science literacy is declining in America, and engaging the public in informal science learning, through public libraries, works to address this critical issue. Cornerstones is on a mission to partner with public libraries across America to strengthen their ability to connect patrons to important science-based community issues and interests, such as health, sustainability, astronomy, water quality and conservation, and climate change.

Our nation is home to only a small handful of science centers and aquariums. However, there are roughly 9,000 public libraries with 17,000 branches. Cornerstones is working with librarians and scientists to help libraries transform themselves into the primary place for youth, adults, and families to engage in interesting and locally relevant science experiences. Cornerstones helps libraries fill this vital role by providing turnkey kits, training, and resources needed to create a scientifically literate public.

Programs that connect communities with science

Cornerstones’ products and services are designed in partnership with public libraries. Together we create places and approaches that help connect patrons and communities with STEM experiences and science providers of local interest and importance.

Our current offerings include programs, training, and online resources.

The Cornerstones Model is a comprehensive package that combines workbooks and guides with in-person and virtual training to help librarians develop the skills they need to connect their communities through science.

The Loanable Library Telescope Program trains librarians and local astronomer mentors to put user-friendly telescopes in the hands of children and families. More than 50,000 people have been able to borrow telescopes, just as they would borrow a book, through 300 libraries in 22 states.

Online digital resources like the STEM Activity Clearinghouse provides librarians with free, vetted, engaging STEM activities and speakers appropriate for library audiences.

Recognizing the growing demand for science literacy in libraries

Cornerstones is recognized as a go-to source for high-quality, turnkey science products, training, and services that increase a library’s ability to deliver engaging and sustainable science programs.

Over $1 million in highly competitive federal grants awarded by NASA, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Science Foundation recognize the importance of this work.

Strategic partnerships with state library agencies accelerate libraries’ adoption of Cornerstones’ products and services, and reach across the nation.

Cornerstones@Berkeley, first branded “Cornerstones@” site. The public library is a science resource center and demonstration site that engages patrons and the community in science programs. This highly successful partnership has galvanized a cadre of science advocates within the Berkeley Public Library and surrounding scientific community.

Cornerstones of Science is celebrating its 20-year anniversary throughout 2019

Please let Cornerstones know if you have a “Cornerstones story” or experience that you would like to share. Did you have a fun experience with a science trunk activity or library telescope, did you attend one of our Library Partner Summit events and have a memorable moment, or did you have a conversation about Cornerstones with Lee or board or staff member that was inspiring? We hope to hear from you and THANK YOU for all your support over these many years!

Citizen Science at the Forefront

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If you are interested in learning more about and doing citizen science then you are in luck. Opportunities abound! Here are just a few to check out.

SciStarter logo

How-To Festival on Citizen Science

Saturday September 15 from 10-1pm in Brunswick, Maine

Come see Cornerstones present on SciStarter activities and the Library Telescope

The Curtis Memorial Library spearheads this festival!



Citizen Science Association (CSA) Conference

March 13-19 in Raleigh, North Carolina

Cynthia Randall, Executive Director of Cornerstones co-presenters at the conference.




Article from Connected Science Learning

Do Children Make Good Citizen Scientists?



Citizen Science SciStarter widget on the Cornerstones of Science website homepage (scroll toward the bottom of the page)

See the “Science We Can Do Together” box on the right side of the page.



Mathematics Problem Solving Program

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Here is a math program to promote in your community that supports out-of-school learning. Maine Mathematics Science and Engineering Talent Search (MMSETS) – Problem-Solving Program for Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont Students

Students receive a problem to solve once a month for seven rounds. Participating in this program is a fun way for student to improve their math skills in an informal way.

Deadline to apply this year is September 5!

More information on the Problem Solving Program including the application: http://www.mmsets.org/images/docs/mmsets18_19probsolv.pdf

More information on MMSETS: http://www.mmsets.org/

Cornerstones: STEM @ Berkeley Public Library

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Berkeley picture

“Working on a national scale is something Cornerstones has been engaged in for about three years now,” stated Sarah Post, Program and Library Support Manager. “We are doing this in a variety of ways from engaging public libraries and astronomy clubs in over 23 states through our Library Telescope Program, to a STEM project through an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant that works with six public libraries in Maine and Massachusetts and state libraries in four states. There is also our NASA@ My Library Project work with 75 public libraries in 49 states and four state library agencies, and now the Cornerstones: STEM@ Berkeley Public Library initiative.”

As a subset of the IMLS grant along with additional funds, Cornerstones and the Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, CA were able to understand the library’s STEM capacity by seeking input from the library staff, board, and community. They used that feedback and made a plan of action that incorporates STEM into the library in a way that is community centered, engages all age groups, and is part of everyday operations. Check out what they are doing!


A Quick Reminder from… The Cornerstones of Science Library Telescope Program Astronomer-Ron Thompson (Cornerstones of Science and Southern Maine Astronomers)

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The CoS Library Telescope program started in 2012, so there are quite a few telescopes out there now. We have had very few problems with them over the years, but we want to make sure you check the battery/batteries in the telescope Red-dot EZ Finder. It is a good habit to check the batteries periodically for both function and safety. The Red-dot EZ Finder is the LED sighting scope located on the optical tube. There is no need to remove the Finder from the telescope to change the batteries.

Telescopes with a lithium battery (small button battery) (see top picture): The battery compartment is located on the underside of the EZ Finder. Pull down on the tab that shows where the battery is located. NOTICE how the battery is currently situated in the compartment so if you have to change the battery then you will see how it is seated.

Telescopes with AA battery pack (see bottom picture): The battery pack is located on the side of the EZ Finder and opened with a small Philips screwdriver. If you find a little bit of corrosion in the black battery pack, clean it out, and replace the batteries. Some corrosion is common when tools have batteries.

Time to Check Your Telescope Red-dot EZ Finder Batteries!

Check your Owner’s manual for more information or the Orion website at www.telescope.com for an instructional video on How to Replace the EZ Finder Battery.