EPL awarded nearly $40,000 from Illinois Secretary of State to support STEM equity in Evanston

September 5, 2023

EVANSTON, IL. – The Evanston Public Library is pleased to announce it has been awarded a grant from the office of Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias to support its equity work in science, technology, engineering and math programming. 

On August 25, Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Alexi Giannoulias announced that he has awarded more than $21.4 million in grants for library services and more than $5.7 million in adult literacy grants for local literacy programs to more than 140 Illinois recipients.

“As State Librarian, it’s a privilege to provide these resources to support and enhance local library services and adult literacy programs across Illinois,” Giannoulias said. “Without properly funding programs, staff and educators, learning is difficult. These grants have the ability to position individuals for success and change lives by serving the unique needs of local communities.” 

In Evanston, the $39,736 awarded by the Secretary of State’s office will fund the Library’s STEM programming for middle school students, including the Cardboard Carnival, Film It Challenge, and other STEM programming offered for free to students across the city.

EPL’s citywide STEM challenges are open to all students who are either Evanston residents or who are enrolled in D65 schools, and EPL and its EvanSTEM partners intentionally reach out to BIPOC and under-resourced families and girl-identifying youth to engage students with the programming. Programs are led by BIPOC instructors and mentors allowing students to see themselves in leadership in STEM fields, and all the necessary supplies are provided free of charge. 

Elacsha Madison, EPL’s Innovation and Digital Learning Manager and winner of this year’s American Library Association ‘I Love My Librarian’ Award, accepted the grant on behalf of the Library. 

“What I really love about these programs is that they are high quality and absolutely free for families. They are exposing kids to real skills and fields they may not have thought to explore before,” Madison said. “I am very proud to be able to expand our STEM programs even further this year, and I want to sincerely thank Secretary Giannoulias for his continued support of the important equity work happening in Evanston and in libraries across the state.” 

This year’s citywide STEM programs will build on previous success – more than 80 percent of students who participated in past challenges said they were interested in trying more engineering and design programs, and more than 90 percent said they built confidence at problem-solving. In addition to the popular Cardboard Carnival and Film It Challenge, the Library will also offer a new Sew It Challenge this October to engage students with geometry, engineering and problem-solving skills. 

Giannoulias awarded grants to projects that: 

  • Support educational mentoring programs that engage students in active learning. 
  • Fund online catalogs and provide resources aimed at narrowing the digital divide. 
  • Provide educational and training opportunities for library staff. 
  • Train volunteers who tutor older teens and adults in basic reading, math, writing, and language skills.
  • Enhance family literacy programming for parents and children that focus on basic reading, math, writing and language skills. 
  • Provide workplace literacy programming to employees of Illinois businesses.
  • Allow access to news and reading materials for those who are vision impaired or have other physical limitations.
  • Expand free statewide sharing and delivery of materials between libraries and patrons. 

The Secretary of State’s office awarded grants for library programs and services using combined state funds and federal Library Services and Technology Act funds. The Adult Literacy Program is funded with state funds and is administered by the Secretary of State’s Illinois State Library Literacy Office. 


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