Discover Space: A Cosmic Journey

Application guidelines


Date application posted: January 30, 2015

Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

I. Project Overview

In partnership with the National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) at the Space Science Institute (SSI),  the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), and the Afterschool Alliance, the American Library Association Public Programs Office is seeking eight public library sites to host the inaugural national tour of the interactive traveling exhibition Discover Space: A Cosmic Journey.  Public libraries in rural areas and those serving rural populations and underrepresented groups are especially invited to apply.

Discover Space is made possible through the support of the National Science Foundation.  The exhibition and its educational support materials and outreach opportunities are part of the STAR (Science-Technology Activities and Resources) Library Education Network (STAR_Net), a hands-on learning program for libraries and their communities. STAR_Net seeks to engage underserved youth and their families in fostering an appreciation and deeper understanding of science and technology topics through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in public libraries, and library collaborations with scientists, engineeers, and STEM organizations. The Discover Space traveling exhibition includes is a research study and evaluation of informal science education in a library setting.  The knowledge gained through the evaluation of the Discover Space project about the nature of informal science learning in libraries will benefit both libraries and the informal science education (ISE) community. The initial reception of the STAR_Net program has been overwhelmingly positive and provides a solid foundation for STAR_Net Phase 2. For more information about STAR_Net, visit

Discover Space will tour from April 2016 through March 2018.  The eight sites selected will host the exhibition for a period of approximately three months each. The exhibition requires 800 square feet of space for optimal display. Each site will be awarded a grant of $1,000 to support public programs related to the exhibition.  Each host library will be asked to actively participate in a national professional learning community called the STAR_Net Online Community.

The project includes a two-day orientation and program planning workshop for two library staff (Project Director and Project Coordinator) from each host library; hands-on science activities from the Lunar and Planetary Institute; programming and outreach consultation with the Afterschool Alliance; and a number of professional development resources, including the STAR_Net Online Community, which will involve sharing of best practices among librarians, scientists, engineers, educators and others who want to bring effective STEM learning experiences to public audiences in a library setting.


The exhibition 

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.  It is the source of all
true art and science.--Albert Einstein

Space exploration and research will help us answer the age-old questions: Where did we come from and are we alone? NSF and NASA research programs are helping humanity understand the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets, and defining the conditions necessary to support life beyond Earth. The four exhibit areas are: A. Search for Alien Earths, B. Exploring Our Solar System, C. Space Rocks, and D. Electric Space. Exhibit goals for visitors are:  1) Learn how stars and planetary systems form and the role that gravity plays, 2) Understand the similarities and differences between Earth and Mars and the tools we use to explore planets, 3) Explore the role that asteroids and comets play in our Solar System, 4) Learn that the Sun is a dynamic star and how it varies, and 5) Explore electric and magnetic changes that take place in space (e.g., the aurora). This exhibit is currently being designed. Final exhibit components will be determined by Summer, 2015.

Discover Space features a 42” Touch Table on which patrons will be able to interact with a variety of astronomy simulations and games. Experiences will include unique pieces designed by NCIL (such as Planet Families, where visitors build their own solar system), as well as popular pieces from JPL and NASA. The exhibit will also feature a touchable meteorite collection, including a 10 pound meteorite. A Solar Monitoring Station will allow patrons to experience near-real-time changes in the Sun’s atmosphere and photosphere.

The Discover Space Quiz Show is a quick-paced and humorous version of a TV game show. Up to three patrons will be able to play the game with a host (an animation of an alien being) asking questions about space science and astronomy and delivering the answers. The JPL/NASA produced Eyes on Exoplanets touchscreen kiosk allows patrons to learn about the search for exoplanets and the latest discoveries. This kiosk will provide near-real-time updates. The Mission to Mars kiosk takes patrons on a journey to Mars and back. Asteroids and comets will be featured in the Space Rocks kiosk that includes and a touch screen featuring games such as “What if it Hit My Town”, “Asteroid Impact” and “What are the Odds?”

Hands-on interactives will also include a Solar System Weather Report Station, where patrons can step in front of a green screen, don an assortment of costumes and give a weather report from various locations in our Solar System. This station will include props and could get a little noisy. Also included is a Discovery Station with various space-themed, hands-on activities such as designing and building robotic rovers (using Legos and other equipment).

Exhibition Physical Details

  • The entire exhibition requires approximately 800 square feet of floor space for optimal display.
  • The minimum ceiling height for exhibition components is 8 feet, although 10 feet is preferable.
  • Libraries should have wireless Internet access in the display area, and at least five electrical outlets nearby.
  • The exhibition will travel in approximately 12-13 shipping crates, some of which will need to be stored during the display period.  Some crates will serve as parts of the exhibit display.


Orientation Workshop/Webinars

There will be a two-day Discover Space exhibition orientation workshop in February 2016 in the Denver, Colorado area for the eight libraries selected for the tour. Libraries may send two staff members to the workshop.  Ideally, this would be the library director or a senior staff member in charge of programming (Project Director), and the staff person in charge of technology or exhibition logistics (Project Coordinator). 


The workshop will include:

•    Information about Discover Space content and science themes presented by scientists and the project       team
•    Presentation and demonstration by the Lunar Planetary Institute of hands-on science activities       appropriate for various ages.
•    Presentations and interactive discussions about:
                  Ways to engage children and families in science
                  Additional programming resources, including a Family Guide and Teacher's Guide to the                            exhibition
                  Programming ideas during and after the Discover Space tour
                  Discussion of possible community reactions to the exhibition and resources
                  Building local partnerships with those who can support Discover Space content
                  Participating in the project’s Online Community (and the tools that support continued                                collaboration)
                  Exhibition assembly, maintenance, and take-downs.

There will also be webinars to offer program support to host sites in preparation for the exhibition tour, including:

Children’s and Youth Librarians’ Webinar: Following the orientation workshop, there will be an online training for children’s and youth public program providers.  At least one staff member is required to attend.  Public program providers who will partner with the host institutions to implement programs for children, youth, and families will also be welcome to attend.  During this webinar, participants will:

  • Undertake hands-on space science activities provided in the Discover Space module
  • Discuss ways to adapt the activities to different programming schemes; and
  • Discuss techniques for facilitating STEM experiences for library patrons.


Professional Training /Project Support

Support Materials
There will be notebooks of support materials distributed at the workshop from the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the ALA:

  • A site support notebook will include programming, publicity, and resource and logistics information for the Discover Space exhibition. 


  • STAR_Net’s  Discover Space Activity Module (developed by the Lunar & Planetary Institute) will contain in-depth guides to hands-on space science activities, which are specifically designed for use in the library setting with three different age groups: ages 5-7, ages 8-9 and 10-13, and teens.  Through the activities, children and teens will explore the central ideas of the Discover Space exhibition—how stars and planetary systems form and the role that gravity plays, the similarities and differences between Earth and Mars, the tools used to explore planets, the Sun as a dynamic star, and the electric and magnetic changes that occur in space.


The STAR_Net Online Community

The STAR_Net Online Community currently has 550 members from all 50 states, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines. Approximately 50 members of the community are STEM professionals who are working with their local libraries to provide STEM programming. The project team is guided by the extensive body of research on communities of practice such as (1) identifying gaps in knowledge and developing a learning agenda; (2) measuring the value of the community; (3) maintaining a cutting-edge focus; and (4) continuing to build and organize a knowledge repository. Phase 2 goals include (1) continuing to grow the community; (2) improving and further developing the infrastructure that supports the online community; and (3) providing professional training opportunities for the community by supporting the learning that occurs by exchanging information and best practices. During Phase 1, the project provided several webinars addressing topics such as collaboration and how to implement standards-based activities that were developed. Phase 2 plans are to greatly expand the use of webinars on topics suggested by the community and involving many more librarians — including Phase 1 library mentors — and STEM professionals as presenters. The STAR_Net Online Community will foster continued learning and professional training for its members, and the formation of partnerships and collaborations to bring a variety of STEM programs to libraries. Please visit the website at  for more information.

Other Project Information

All public libraries chosen as hosts for the exhibition are required to do the following:

  • Sign a contract with the exhibition sponsor (NCIL@SSI) agreeing to programming, publicity, evaluation,       reporting, participation in the STAR_Net Online Community, and other project requirements.
  • Present  a minimum of 10 public programs in collaboration with community organizations, local       scientists, and scientists and educators available through the sponsors. The ten programs should be for       different age groups, including one opening event, three public programs for adults, three public       programs for families, and three programs for out of school K-12 children (one of these should be an       after-school program). Any one of these programs may be combined with the opening event. Some       programs must use STAR­_Net resources developed for the exhibit — these resources, including          the Discover Space hands-on activities and a family guide to the exhibit, will be demonstrated at the exhibit orientation workshop and webinar. Resources and ideas for programs will be available from         exhibition sponsors at the project orientation workshop and from other sources.
  • Actively participate in the project’s Online Community by posting program descriptions and outcomes.
  • Market the exhibition and programs to at least one underrepresented audience in the community.
  • Allow the public to view the exhibition and attend public programs free of charge.
  • Provide reports, including an exhibition condition report and a final report, to exhibition sponsors.
  • Participate in exhibition evaluation as requested.
  • Appoint one staff member as the Project Director of the exhibition. The Project Director is responsible for attending the project planning workshop, reviewing educational and support materials, and overseeing programming and marketing of the exhibition.
  • Appoint one staff member to be the local Project Coordinator. The Project Coordinator will also attend the orientation workshop, and will be responsible for project logistics and technology, i.e., assuring that the exhibition is set up, displayed and taken down according to project guidelines.
  • Agree to all publicity requirements, including use of  designated exhibition credits and/or logos on all local publicity materials, both in-print and online.
  • Show that the library has sufficient space to display the exhibition  (800 square feet in one area of the library is required), and can provide security for the exhibition, i.e., monitor the exhibition at least every half-hour during peak times and every hour at less busy times.
  • Be responsible for the condition of the exhibition. Sites will be held responsible for damage to or loss of the exhibition when it is under their control.  Minor repairs will be carried out and paid for by the project grant.
  • INSURANCE: It is required that each host library add the exhibition to their institutional insurance coverage or purchase an insurance rider The value of the exhibition is approximately $125,000. The exhibition should be insured from ten days' before the first day of the exhibition period to ten days after the closing date.


II.  Award Information

Eight public libraries will be selected to host Discover Space between April  2016 and March 2018.  Each host site will receive the following:

  • The traveling exhibition for a 12-week loan period (shipping costs are paid by the project grant).
  • A $1,000 grant for expenses related to local exhibition programming (indirect costs may not be charged to the grant by host sites)  Please note that grant funds may not be used to pay for social events, receptions, entertainment, or alcoholic beverages.
  • Travel and accommodation expenses paid for attendance at the project orientation workshop for two exhibition project staff  from each site.
  • A publicity kit containing images for use in publicity and on host library websites.
  • Media resources for a STEM @ My Library public engagement campaign.
  • Opportunity to collaborate with the Afterschool Alliance and their Lights on Afterschool campaign.
  • Training through periodic project webinars, and printed and online project support materials

            Professional development opportunities: Libraries on the tour will have access to a STAR_Net Online             Community during and after the Discover Space project. The Online Community will be a dynamic     forum             for host libraries to contact organizations and individuals for programming help, share            programming             resources and program outcomes, access to a growing library of STEM activity resources,       and grant opportunities.

  • Technical and programming support from the National Center for Interactive Learning, other project partners, the STAR_Net Online Community, and the  ALA Public Programs Office throughout the tour, including participation in an online discussion list for tour sites.


III. Eligibility

This exhibition tour is open to public libraries in the United States.  Public libraries in rural areas and those serving rural populations and underserved groups are especially invited to apply. Individuals and federal entities are not eligible to apply.

IV. Application and Submission Information
Applications will be accepted for Discover Space between January 30 and April 7, 2015.  Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time on April 7, 2015.  Late or  incomplete applications, and applications from ineligible institutions will not be reviewed.  Applications and support materials may not be submitted by mail or e-mail.

Getting Started

To begin the application process, go to

To apply to host Discover Space, you must complete the following ten steps:

  • LOG IN OR REGISTER (if you have not registered when applying for a different project)
  • LOG IN (if you have already registered when applying for a different project)


Before you can access the application, you must register to create an application account.


2.  LOG IN

If you have already registered when applying for another ALA Public Programs Office grant project, you may log in, using your e-mail address and password.

Note: The Project Director is the person who will be responsible for coordinating the traveling exhibition at the site. He or she will be the primary point of contact for the project at the applicant institution. 

To complete step 3, provide all the information that is requested for the Project Director, Project Coordinator, local library information, and shipping information. You must then save the information.

After clicking the “SAVE” button, you will be able to return to the application at any time and log in, using your e-mail address and password. This will allow you to edit, save, and return to your application as needed prior to the submission deadline.

One piece of information that you must supply is the applicant institution’s DUNS number. All institutions receiving an award are required to provide a DUNS number, issued by Dun & Bradstreet. Project directors should contact their institution’s grants administrator or chief financial officer to obtain their institution’s DUNS number. Federal grant or subgrant applicants can obtain a DUNS number free of charge by calling 1-866-705-5711. (Learn more about the requirement.)


Applicants may apply for only one exhibition. Only one application will be accepted from each applicant institution.


Please complete the Exhibition Scheduling item for the exhibition you are applying for. Each site will have the exhibition for three months, or approximately 12 weeks. If you have additional information about scheduling preferences to add to your application, please include it at the end of this section under “Comments.”

You must indicate a choice in all the drop down menus. (You may indicate “No Preference” for any of them.) Please note that we cannot guarantee that the exhibition will be available during one of your preferred periods.

Before you compose the narrative part of this proposal, we strongly recommend that you read the guidelines carefully. If you do not, your proposal is unlikely to be competitive.
Please describe your plans for presenting Discover Space. The proposal narrative consists of nine sections (described below). Please note that each section of the narrative may not exceed 400 words.
Be sure to address the following points in your narrative:

1.  Describe why your library would like to host this exhibition, including community interests in STEM topics, demographics, collections, or other resources or programming focuses pertinent to the project. What are your prior experiences with hosting traveling exhibitions and/or offering public programs about STEM topics?
[text area]

2.  What do you hope to accomplish by bringing this exhibition to the community?

[text area]


3.  A major focus of the STAR_Net project is to reach groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields—such as underrepresented minorities, lower-income populations, and women.  Identify at least one principal underserved audience you will reach with programming for this exhibition and make a strong case for why you have chosen this audience and how you will reach them.  A generally underserved geographic area can be considered an underrepresented audience. 

[text area]

4. Describe your general publicity plans for exhibition.  Attach a typical public programs communication plan your library might use in Section 7.A, and describe below anything you would do differently for this STEM exhibition project.

[text area]


5. Collaboration with STEM organizations and individuals with STEM expertise is very important to the success of this project.  The project will provide some potential partners/collaborations to sites, but tell us what partnerships with STEM and non-STEM organizations and individuals in your area will help you to make the exhibition and your programs a success.  Have you worked with these organizations/individuals before?  Attach support letters from project partners and other supporters in Section 7.B.

[text area]


6. Describe the programs you plan to implement to meet or to exceed the project requirements. Project requirements  are: A minimum of ten programs for different age groups, including one opening event, three public programs for adults, three public programs for families, and three programs for out of school K-12 children (at least one of these should be an after-school program)  You may combine the opening event with a program. Some programs must use STAR_Net resources developed for each exhibit.  These resources, including hands-on activities for Discover Earth and Discover Tech (Discover Space  activities are in development), will be demonstrated at exhibit orientation workshops and webinars. T ell us your ideas for programs and program presenters. Include names and qualifications of potential external (non-library staff) presenters.  Support letters from external presenters may be attached in 7.B.

[text area]

7.  Describe how you will work with educators and schools in your area and estimate how many school-age children might visit the exhibition. Note any long-term relationships you have with local educators that might prove beneficial in reaching school age children with programming.  Also tell us about your work with After School organizations? There will be a STAR_Net Teacher's Guide available for each exhibition—how will you use this guide?

[text area]

8.  Where will the exhibition be displayed in your library? Please describe the space and its relationship to traffic flow in the library. Does the area have wireless Internet access and at least five electrical outlets?  Please attach a floor plan and photos of the exhibit space in Section 7.C.

[text area]


      9. Please rank the two exhibitions you did not apply for according to your level of interest in hosting them, and use the text area to make any comments about your interests in STEM topics for library programs.



[text area]



            7.A. Communications Plan
            Upload a typical public program communications plan your library might use and include anything you             would do differently for this STEM project.

            7.B. Letters of Support
            Upload letters of support from project partners and other organizations, as well as from potential             external program presenters.

            7.C. Floor Plan and Photos
            Upload a floor plan of the exhibition space in your library and photos of the space.



An application to host the STAR_Net Discover Space exhibition is an application for an award from the sponsor of this project (National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute).  The exhibition sponsors are required by law to ask applicants to identify for each application a certifying official who is authorized to submit applications for funding on behalf of the organization.

To complete this section, you must enter all of the information that is requested.


The Review and Edit page summarizes all the information that you have entered.  From this page you can review and edit each section, save the entire application and log out of the system, or move ahead to submit your application.


When you are satisfied with your application, submit it using the Submit button. Once your application has been submitted, you may still log in to view or print it, but no further editing or other changes will be possible.  All applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Central Time. on April 7, 2015.

Applications submitted after that time will be considered ineligible. You will receive via e-mail a confirmation of the submission of your application. At the confirmation page you will be able to print out a copy of your application, which you should keep.

Applications and application attachments may not be submitted by mail or e-mail.

V. Application Review

Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • The quality of the ideas underlying the planned public programs.
  • The library’s effort to contact qualified program presenters.
  • The availability of appropriate exhibition space, and the library’s ability to provide security for the exhibition.
  • The location of the sites. (The selection committee would like the exhibition to visit all regions of the country.)
  • The size and demographics of the community.
  • Evidence that the site has the support of community groups and other organizations in planning for the exhibition. Selectors welcome programming collaborations among science, education, civic and other kinds of organizations.  However, sending the exhibition to more than one venue in a community during the display period is prohibited.
  • Evidence that the site can reach target audiences and market the exhibition and related programs to an underrepresented audience effectively. Collaboration with other organizations in the community reaching underrepresented audiences is a good strategy for accomplishing this goal. 


Review process
Each application will be assessed by a review panel of librarians and representatives of other educational and cultural institutions and disciplines, in collaboration with the sponsors.

VI. Award Administration Information

Application Deadline: April 7, 2015
Award Notification: By May 30, 2015

VII. Points of Contact
If you have questions about the project or the application, contact:
American Library Association Public Programs Office
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045

VIII. Other Information
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