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In recent years, libraries have quickly become community hubs for citizen science, engaging volunteers to help collect and analyze data. Many libraries now regularly feature science talks and even offer citizen science tool kits, letting the public participate in everything from transcribing historic texts to counting caterpillars.
Libraries increasingly see this kind of work as part of their mission to strengthen communities and transform lives through education and lifelong learning.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic playing out, many libraries can’t open their doors to large gatherings. Instead, they’re pivoting their services to offer curbside book pick-ups and online programs.
Now, a new effort called “Summer Reading Meets Citizen Science” is taking those programs a step further to bring virtual citizen science and health programming to libraries this summer. The project builds off the Collaborative Summer Library Program 2020 reading theme, “Imagine Your Story,” and enlists scientists to share their own stories of how they became an astronomer, a research engineer or an epidemiologist.
Each researcher also leads a citizen science project and will describe how and why they created their participatory research projects, and provide step-by-step instructions on how anyone, anywhere can get involved and contribute to research. The topics cover everything from monitoring tap water and light pollution to helping Alzheimer’s research and developing new medicines.
The series is a partnership between SciStarter.org and the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM), a program of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the All of Us Research Program at NIH. The groups designed the program to help keep students, adults and families engaged with reading and research to prevent “summer slide” learning loss.
During each online event, the SciStarter team will provide an interactive overview of citizen science, ongoing support for participants and librarians, and connect to NNLM resources through a customized microsite at SciStarter.org/NLM.
“Libraries serve as vital community hubs, and this collaboration presents a perfect opportunity to help the public understand how health research impacts all of us,” said NLM director Patricia Flatley Brennan. “Working with our vast network of public libraries, we hope to contribute to medical breakthroughs that may lead to more tailored disease prevention and treatment solutions for generations to come.”
This new collaboration builds on work led by NNLM, SciStarter, and Arizona State University to support Citizen Science Month (April 2020) in libraries. Citizen Science Month is an annual program that builds awareness of citizen science. It helps patrons across the nation discover and engage in real scientific research addressing societal needs and accelerating biomedical science, technology, and innovation, and provides resources for libraries and communities to explore the impact of the environment on human health. Citizen science can increase transparency and strengthen trust between NNLM and the communities they serve across the nation.
These online events are open to anyone and will be hosted by libraries across the country, with events in California, Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
There are many ways for anyone who is curious or concerned about local or global issues to engage.
RSVP today for events in the Citizen Science Meets Summer Reading series via the links below and explore the featured projects before the events at SciStarter.org/NLM.
Watch the Recording: Globe at Night with South Butler Community Library in Saxonburg, PA on 7/9
Watch the Recording: Alzheimer’s Research Online Q&A with Tredyffrin Township Libraries – Paoli Library in Paoli, PA on 7/23
Free Registration: How to Measure Light in the Night Online Q&A with Riverside Regional Library in Jackson, MO at 10:30 AM CT in on 8/4
Free Registration: Investigating Weather and Climate Online Q&A with San Benito County Free Library in Hollister, CA at 2 PM PT on 8/4
Free Registration: Alzheimer’s Research Online Q&A with Olathe Public Library in Olathe, KS at 5:30 PM CT on 8/17
Free Registration: Protect Tap Water Online Q&A with the Studio City Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library in Studio City, CA at 4 PM PT on 8/19
Free Registration: Discover New Antiviral Drugs Online Q&A with the Watts Branch Library at the Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles, CA at 1 PM PT on 8/25
Free Registration: Investigating Weather and Climate Online Q&A with Howe Library in Hanover, NH at 7 PM ET on 8/26
Free Registration: Protect Tap Water Online Q&A with Torrance Public Library in Torrance, CA at 4 PM PT on 8/27
Free Registration: Help Track the Flu Online Q&A with Scotch Plains Public Library in Scotch Plains, NJ at 2 PM ET on 8/28
Free Registration: Fight Plastic Pollution Online Q&A with the County of San Luis Obispo Public Libraries in San Luis Obispo, CA at 3 PM PT on 9/3
To get started, go to SciStarter.org/NLM to:
Sign up for a free SciStarter account
Access the free, “Introduction to Citizen Science” online, self-guided tutorial
Review and participate in any of the featured projects
Explore health resources from NNLM and All of Us
Select one or more of the free virtual, summer events to tune into and register
Then, tune in and engage!
For other health programming ideas for Summer Reading, visit the NNLM Summer Reading site.