by Sue McKerracher, CEO, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)


The STEAM into Sydney conference took place on 16 and 17 March 2017, alongside the IFLA Public Libraries Section mid-term meeting. Organised by Section Chair Marian Morgan-Bindon and Secretary/Information Coordinator Jan Richards, the event was booked out within a couple of hours, demonstrating the strength of interest in the Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEM) agenda across the globe.

How public libraries contribute to the STEM agenda

Determined to make the most of the stories generated through the conference presentations, Jan and Marian worked with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) to produce a summary of these: How public libraries contribute to the STEM agenda. As an easy to read, highly illustrated document, this report has already proved to be a valuable advocacy tool, helping library managers explain to local, state and territory governments what can be achieved by investing in makerspaces and technology programs. For some politicians and their advisers, it is difficult to understand the link between libraries and STEM. This report not only makes that connection, but also provides examples of inspirational activities, from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

The report is the first Australian publication specifically designed to show the impact of libraries in contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda. This particular document relates to Sustainable Development Goal 5 “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” – Target B: “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”. The report has been shared with the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of the Arts. Further reports are planned over the coming months along with advice to library managers about how they can use them as conversation starters with local councils and their communities.