Libraries and Halloween STEAM

Libraries across the country are celebrating Halloween with spooky stories, devilish decorations, and clever costumes. Some are even adding an educational twist to the festivities through the use of enriching Halloween STEAM activities.

A handsome young scientist delighted with gooey green slime.

A handsome young scientist delighted with gooey green slime. [Photo Courtesy of Children’s Librarian Jennifer Boyce, Fairview Branch, Santa Monica Public Library]

What is STEAM?

STEAM is an acronym that stands for the integration of an A for the arts into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning. STEAM activities help equip kids with essential 21st-century skills that will help prepare them for the job market. The creative arts component — the “A” — in STEAM activities can engage students and spark interest in science and technology. STEAM is especially useful for helping students develop skills that are necessary to prepare for creative industries, including digital games, software, design, and marketing. However, research reveals the importance for all employees, not just those in creative industries, to demonstrate creativity in the workforce.

Libraries to Inspire You

Are you working on a STEAM Halloween project and need a little inspiration? The libraries below caught our attention for adding STEAM to their Halloween.

Champaign Public Library:

Today (October 26), middle school and high school kids will be creating 3D pumpkins from 3:00 to 5:00 at the main library. Sarah Butt, the library associate we contacted at the Champaign Public Library in Champaign, Illinois, explained that she created a pumpkin template in a program called Sculptris. The kids are then able to use the tools and create faces for their pumpkins. Once they are finished, the files can be printed on the 3D printer and ready for the kids from the middle school next door to pick up.

Sculptris Pumpkin Template at Champaign Public Library [Photo Courtesy of Sarah Butt, Library Associate]


STEAM 3D Printed Pumpkin at Champaign Public Library [Photo Courtesy of Sarah Butt, Library Associate]

Santa Monica Public Library (SMPL):

SMPL (Yes, the very same library we blogged about that has a summer beach library!) is also holding STEAM events at their Ocean Park and Fairview branches.

Ewok Launcher (marshmallow launcher)

Ewok Launcher (marshmallow launcher) [Photo courtesy of Youth Librarian Julia Casas, Ocean Park branch, Santa Monica Public Library]

Also today, in connection with Star Wars Reads, SMPL’s Ocean Park branch is holding a Star Wars STEAM program from 3:30 to 4:30 for kids and teens. Participants are encouraged to wear costumes at the event.

Rescue a Jedi from Carbonite STEAM activity

Rescue a Jedi from Carbonite STEAM Activity [Photo courtesy of Youth Librarian Julia Casas, Ocean Park branch, Santa Monica Public Library]

Youth librarian Julia Casas, who is coordinating the event, has planned several activity stations that will give kids the chance to explore science concepts at their own pace. Among the activities are an “Ewok Launcher” (marshmallow launcher), which helps kids to learn about force, motion and gravity, and a “Rescue a Jedi from Carbonite” (lego minifigs trapped inside a baking soda mixture), which explores chemical reactions.

Children’s librarian Jennifer Boyce let us know that on October 31, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., the Fairview Branch will be featuring a program, “STEAM Craft: Glow-in-the-Dark Slime,” for children ages four and up. According to Ms. Boyce, the program will explore science concepts (in this case, chemistry) in a “fun, unstructured way.” Fairview’s Halloween STEAM event is part of their monthly STEAM programs, which in the past have included events such as a DIY Girls Club that focused on creative electronics and a “Build with Minecraft” program.

North Mankato Taylor Library:


2016 Halloween STEAM event [Photo courtesy of Children’s Librarian Michelle Zimmermann, North Mankato Taylor Library]

Children’s librarian Michelle Zimmermann of North Mankato Taylor Library in North Mankato, Minnesota, hosted a spooky science lab for their Halloween STEAM event, which was held on October 20th. The event, for ages eight to 12, was part of a monthly program, STEAM Rollers.

The mad scientists — some of whom had an evil laugh down perfectly — learned how sound is made with vibrations by making eerie sound devices with plastic cups, yarn, paper clips and water. They also made slime to learn about chemical and physical properties and examined how using different ratios changed the composition of the material they were making. The third activity involved making pumpkin lava lamps and dealt with the concepts of polar and non polar molecules. Kids also learned about how oil and water don’t mix. According to Ms. Zimmermann, the lava lamps seemed to make the biggest impression on the young scientists.


More Halloween STEAM Activities

Still looking for inspiration? Below are five spooktacular links you can use to incorporate STEAM into your Halloween event:

Special Guest Post

And be sure to check back tomorrow for another wicked STEAM/STEM post with featured blogger Dawn Treude. The Library Assistant in Youth Services will explore the Halloween activities at the Scottsdale Public Library. She will be discussing how to create science-based projects by using everyday items with a spooky theme.

Tweet Us!

If you’ve implemented a Halloween STEAM activity in your classroom or library, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.

1986 World Series: The Curse of the Bambino Continues

Babe Ruth Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Babe Ruth Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Babe Ruth was a baseball icon for the New York Yankees.  But before he was a Yankee, he was a member of the Boston Red Sox.  From 1914-1919, the Babe helped the formidable Red Sox win five of the first fifteen World Series.  During the 1919-1920 off-season, Babe was traded to the rival Yankees.  And so began the “Curse of the Bambino.”  The previously unsuccessful Yankees would go on to win 26 of 39 World Series in which they appeared, while the Red Sox would not see another World Series title until 2004.

Bill Buckner [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Buckner [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The Curse proved alive and well in the 1986 World Series — October 25, 1986 to be exact.  It was game 6, and Boston was one win away from winning the title over the New York Mets.  What happened in that game has been rightly described as a “miracle.”  The Sox had leads of 2-0 and 3-2 into the seventh inning, but the Mets rallied to tie the score going into the bottom of the ninth.  Unable to break the tie, the game went into extra innings.  In the top of the tenth, the Red Sox took the lead once more scoring two more runs.  After two quick outs by the Mets in the bottom of the tenth, the Sox were one out away from the championship.  Twice they were one strike away.  But after a single by Ray Knight scored Gary Carter and a wild pitch allowed another run to score, the Mets had once again rallied to tie the score, 5-5.  Then came the play that changed the game and the Series.  Mookie Wilson hit a slow rolling grounder down the first base line.  Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully made the unforgettable call: “Little roller up along first. Behind the bag. It gets through Buckner! Here comes (Ray) Knight, and the Mets win it!”  First baseman Bill Buckner missed the ball as it rolled between his legs.  The Mets would go on to win Game 7 and the title on October 27.  Bill Buckner would remain a pariah well into the 20th century, and the Red Sox would have to wait another 18 years to be World Series Champions and curse-free.

Thirty years later, Major League Baseball is on the verge of another “cursed” World Series.  The Chicago Cubs have not won the Series since 1908 and the Cleveland Indians since 1948.  Will the “Curse of the Billy Goat” finally end with a Chicago win?  Will Steve Bartman end his reign as baseball’s current persona non grata?  Will the Indians win another professional sports title in 2016 for the city of Cleveland?  Stay tuned.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Equatorial Guinea

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!


Flag of Equatorial Guinea

The new Equatorial Guinea report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Equatorial Guinea:

  • In the Fang culture, many pregnant women take herbal baths to protect themselves from evil spirits.
  • Equatorial Guinea is the only country in Africa with Spanish as an official language.
  • When Portuguese explorers first found the island of Bioko, they named it Formosa, which means “beautiful.”
  • The islands of Bioko and Annobón are actually located closer to other countries like Cameroon and São Tomé and Príncipe than they are to Equatorial Guinea’s mainland.

Find out about popular foods and snacks in Equatorial Guinea, read about Bonko Dancers, and discover what life is like as a kid, all in this colorful new report.

Haunted Libraries

My coworker, Jaclyn Rosansky, and I blogged about unusual things you can borrow from libraries. While researching that post, I came across many libraries that host Halloween costume exchanges. I also read about libraries that hold Halloween parties with ghost stories and spooky decorations. With Halloween fast approaching (and because it happens to be my favorite holiday), I wondered what other spooky things involve libraries. Would I find haunted libraries and, if so, where are they and how many are there? To see what I learned, click on the interactive map below or view it in a larger, presentation mode here: Spooky Libraries.

If you know of a haunted library in one of the states in which I couldn’t find any, please let me know in the comments section at the end of this post. Thank you, and Happy Halloween!

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

This month, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is celebrated in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The festival began in 1972 and is celebrated during the first weeks of October. Here are some fun facts about the festival.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
By Eric Ward from Provo, UT, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

* When the event began in 1972, there were just 13 balloons featured in the festival. Now there are over 500 hot air balloons in the festival!

* The event is held for 9 days.

* People from over 20 different countries participate in the event.

* In recent years, over 80,000 people have attended the event.

* Besides the wonderful hot air balloons at the festival, visitors can also enjoy music, food, and other educational activities.

* If you plan in advance, you can book a ride on a hot air balloon during the festival!

Teachers, direct your students to SIRS Discoverer to learn more about this festival and about hot air balloons. Here are some resources to get you started:

Floating Festival

How Stuff Works: How Hot Air Balloons Work

Hot air balloons

Official website of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

National History Day 2017 in eLibrary

The 2017 National History Day theme, Taking a Stand in History, has been established, and eLibrary is ready to help students get a start on their research. We have created a jump page that features links to Research Topics related to many of the topics suggested on the National History Day website.

If you are not familiar with National History Day, it is a national program that provides a broad theme and challenges students to take a deep look at history and develop a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website. From NHD’s site:

…The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.

The NHD theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time.

Following local and state events showcasing the projects, the program culminates in a national contest featuring the top entries from around the world. This school year’s national contest will be held June 11-15, 2017.

Check out our ProQuest Research Topic Guide: National History Day.

ProQuest Research Topic Guide: National History Day

ProQuest Research Topic Guide: National History Day via eLibrary


CultureGrams: New Interviews Added!

Interviews Gallery

Over the past month, CultureGrams has added 8 new Interviews! And there are even more coming soon! The 8 we added are

These interviews by country natives are not only interesting and fun to read, but they also give students insider knowledge into what life and culture in the country are really like.

Here’s an example from the Thailand interview, in which Saichai, age 51, talks about general Thai attitudes and how she feels about being Thai:

Saichai, ThailandI’m proud of being Thai. I like the way of life here, the way people usually deal with each other, and that everyone tries to be easy going. Of course, that’s not always possible, and there are many problems as well, but it’s the way people deal with that. Sometimes people complain that many things go wrong in this country, but isn’t that the case in every country of the world? Our culture is also a lot about accepting the circumstances and not letting them get you down. Because the only thing that will happen is that you feel bad about things you cannot change anyway. I have never been abroad, but when I see foreigners who come to Thailand, I feel that sometimes they worry too much about little things.

Find more interviews from countries all over the world in the CultureGrams Interviews gallery!

Libraries Serving Spanish-Speaking Communities

A library sign in English with Spanish translation, in a Texas library (Un letrero en inglés y español en una biblioteca en Texas).. The city has a large number of Spanish speakers moving in so the public library now has Spanish books and also some Spanish signs. (Pete Unseth, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license) (via Wikimedia Commons)

A library sign in English with Spanish translation, in a Texas library (Un letrero en inglés y español en una biblioteca en Texas). The city is serving its large Spanish-speaking population. (Pete Unseth, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license) (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Spanish language is an integral part of the American experience.

According to the 2011 Pew Research Center’s American Community Survey, Spanish is the main language spoken in more than 37 million homes. According to the 2012 U.S. Census, Hispanic Americans comprised 17% of the country’s population–53 million people.

How do the more than 16,000 public libraries across the United States serve this culturally rich community?

There are numerous ways that public libraries can find the fiscal support, cultural materials, and language expertise necessary to successfully serve their diverse Spanish-language-speaking communities. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated each year in the U.S. from September 15 through October 15, let’s take a look at some.

Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users

The American Library Association offers a comprehensive overview to librarians and media specialists who seek to initiate services to Spanish-language-speaking populations or to build upon their existing resources. Visit Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users for an overview of collection development and selection; cultural programming and outreach; the value of personnel training and development; and the significance of collection placement.


The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking (REFORMA) was established in 1986 with the purpose of providing educational, charitable, and programming outreach to Hispanic American librarians and to libraries wanting to serve the Spanish-speaking population.

The REFORMA site provides extensive online resources for libraries, including a Spanish-English dictionary, Spanish-language brochures and flyers, and storytime materials. The organization offers awards and recognition to libraries and holds events and conferences on Spanish-language literature and in support of outreach to Spanish-language communities.


Spanish in Our Libraries (SOL), although no longer being published, is now an archive of valuable information. This electronic newsletter helped to connect librarians and media specialists serving their libraries’ Spanish-speaking communities.


Public Libraries Using Spanish (PLUS) is a growing searchable database that provides libraries with documents necessary for any library to serve its Spanish-language communities. Find printable card applications, signs, programming information, and more, written in Spanish with English translations. The site’s owner is accessible by email and asks for users to share their comments, experiences, and document submissions.

WebJunction’s SLO Program

WebJunction is an online learning community for librarians. The organization offers knowledge and support in many areas of librarianship: leadership and communication, staff training, library services, technology, and programming.

One facet of WebJunction is its Spanish Language Outreach (SLO) Program. Case studies, webinars, and materials (such as an action plan template and checklists) assist libraries in creating, maintaining, and growing Spanish language collections, services and programming, and outreach. Text to the site’s Spanish Language Outreach Workshop Curriculum–including a PowerPoint presentation and a resource packet–offers in-depth instruction and support to librarians and media specialists.

These sites are only some of the resources available to public libraries serving, or looking to serve, their Spanish language communities–communities that are integral to the advancement of our nation and its libraries.

SIRS Knowledge Source and SIRS Discoverer commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month each year by spotlighting the history of and the news, events, and issues affecting this vibrant and diverse population. Find articles, timelines, photos, and more.

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

We are in the midst of Hispanic American Heritage Month! There is so much to know about the Hispanic presence in the United States and its impact on the country’s development and its continued growth. Populations of Hispanic descent have thrived here since 1565, when Spanish explorers founded the Florida city of St. Augustine. That’s 42 years before English explorers arrived in Jamestown. America has always been Hispanic!

While it’s important to delve into the history of the Hispanic American community and meet prominent Hispanic Americans, it is also valuable to learn about from where Hispanic Americans have descended. For example, did you know that the beautiful South American country of Bolivia, ruled by the Inca Empire for centuries, was colonized by Spain in the 1500s? And that the mountainous Central American country of Honduras was once part of the Mayan civilization? Perhaps you can challenge your students to pick a country, research its history and cultures, and present their findings.

Mayan Altar in Honduras

Mayan Altar in Honduras
Image by Dennis Jarvis via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

Or, direct their research with questions so that they can research for answers! Maybe you want to try a history question like “What Central American country was home to the Olmec civilization thousands of years ago? What other ancient civilizations lived in this country and what impact did they have?” Or a cultural question like “What is a quinceanera? It originates from the Spanish word quince, which means what?”


Image by Razi Machay via flickr is licensed under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic

This information and much more is available on SIRS Discoverer. During the month of October our Spotlight of the Month highlights Hispanic American Heritage Month. Not only can your students learn about the histories and cultures of Hispanic countries, but they can meet Hispanic American authors, poets, politicians, musicians, civil-rights activists, and more. There’s so much to learn about the United States and the amazing people who compose its beautiful diversity.

Winnie-the-Pooh Turns 90!

Original Winnie-the-Pooh Toys

Christopher Robin Milne’s Original Toys [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

The story of Winnie-the-Pooh begins, as many great stories do, in 1914 at the beginning of the Great War. At the outbreak of World War I, Canadian troops from Winnipeg, Manitoba, were being transported by train to eastern Canada where they would then be shipped off to Europe to join the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade. When the train stopped at White River, Ontario, Harry Colebourn, a lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, bought a small female black bear from a hunter who had killed the cub’s mother. Colebourn paid $20 for the cub and called her “Winnipeg” after his hometown, and then nick-named her “Winnie.” The cub became the brigade’s mascot and was shipped overseas to Britain with the Canadians. When the brigade received its orders to depart for the battlefields of France, Colebourn donated the bear to the London Zoo, where she lived until 1934.

Harry Colebourn & the Original "Winnie"

Harry Colebourn and Winnie [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Fast-forward to 1921 when British playwright A. A. Milne’s wife Daphne gave her son, Christopher Robin Milne, a stuffed bear she bought at Harrods Department Store. Christopher named the bear “Edward.” When Christopher was a bit older, his parents would take him to the London Zoo where “Winnie” became his favorite animal. The bear was so tame that Christopher was even allowed inside Winnie’s cage to feed her. Christopher then began to call his stuffed bear “Winnie.” Daphne purchased other stuffed animals for her son, which he named Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger. Young Christopher invented voices and personalities for his stuffed toys which began to inspire his father to write poems and stories about the animals.

Technically, Christopher’s bear Edward made his first appearance in print in 1924 in a poem called “Teddy Bear,” but the first book written about “Winnie” was published on October 14, 1926, under the title “Winnie-the-Pooh.” It was followed in 1928 by “The House at Pooh Corner.” Milne’s collaboration with illustrator E. H. Shepard proved to be literary dynamite. The Pooh stories have sold well over 50 million copies in 25 languages.

A. A. Milne Research Topic

A. A. Milne Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

This October, you can wish Pooh a happy 90th birthday by having a cup of tea and reading the Milne/Shepard books and researching other classics of Children’s Literature in eLibrary.


*The name “Pooh” came not from a bear but from a real swan that lived near Milne’s county home. The swan appears in the poem “The Mirror” in the book “When We Were Very Young.”

*The characters of “Owl” and “Rabbit” were the only ones not inspired by Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals.

*Walt Disney brought the characters to film in 1966. Pooh is 2nd only to Mickey Mouse in the list of Disney’s most-loved characters.

*Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England, is the setting for the Hundred Acre Wood in the books.

*Christopher Robin’s original stuffed toys can be seen on permanent display at the New York Public Library’s branch on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.

*The actor Sterling Holloway was the voice of Pooh in the original Disney films.

*Harry Colebourn served for 3 years in France, rising to the rank of Major. After the War, he returned to Winnipeg where he opened a private veterinary practice. He died in 1947. There are statues of both Colebourn and Winnie at the Winnipeg Zoo and the London Zoo.