The Blanco Library has been selected as one of only forty libraries nationwide to host “Visions of the Universe: Four Centuries of Discovery,” a touring exhibit developed to mark the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. The exhibit and tour have been developed by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office, Chicago. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has provided major funding for the exhibit, which will tour throughout 2009.
The exhibit traces the roots of astronomy to 1609, when Galileo’s experiments with the telescope opened the heavens and challenged the medieval view that the earth was the center of the universe. Four hundred years of space exploration is documented, including dramatic images from the Hubble Telescope and the many NASA missions to explore the solar system. The goal of the exhibit, according to the American Library Association, is to “provoke the visitor’s innate curiosity to explore and discover more within the shelves of the library.”
In addition to the exhibit itself, the library will receive two stipends: $250 for collection development and $500 for programming support. Funding is designated for cooperation with the local school system to promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through various activities, including field trips and family programs. “We will be making a real commitment to reach out to the schools in our community and develop public programs related to the exhibit,” asserted Director of Library Services Jan Redmond.
A local committee comprised of educators and community members with scientific and technological expertise collaborated to write the grant which made the award possible. Blanco High School principal Dustin Barton called the exhibit “a wonderful opportunity for the students of Blanco” and expressed his eagerness on behalf of the BHS staff to “work in conjunction with the Blanco Library to assist students in obtaining an enhanced learning experience.” Blanco Elementary School fifth grade science teacher Mike McClure, who has worked with the McDonald Observatory and uses an astronomy database called “StarDate in the Classroom” with his students, wrote a letter in support of the library. “I’m excited about working with the staff at the Blanco Library to bring educational programming and opportunities to the citizens of Blanco,” he said. He called the exhibit “a wonderful opportunity” and expressed hope that it will “bridge a gap” in the knowledge of children and the community at large about the nature of the universe.
According to Children’s Librarian Christine Bailey, “The community of Blanco will greatly benefit from such an exhibit. I really am excited that the children of Blanco will be exposed to space science history, and hopefully will be inspired to study math and science on a deeper level.” Details of the exhibit will be available soon.