A National Leadership Planning Grant for Fort Hays State University’s Forsyth Library from the Institute for Museum and Library Services was announced at a news conference today by U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, First District representative from Kansas.

Library Dean Deborah Ludwig and Claire Nickerson, a faculty librarian and principal investigator for the grant, accepted the award of $49,997. Gordon Carlson, associate professor of communication studies, is the co-principal investigator and directs the university’s Institute for New Media Studies.

Planning grants help project teams analyze needs and feasibility, solidify partnerships and develop work plans or prototypes, among other things. The Forsyth Library team is building a prototype of a smart classroom.

Marshall, introducing the grant, noted the widespread tendency of people to focus on short-term benefits. The benefits of this project, he said, will be evident in two years, or five years, and will benefit life in western Kanas.

“I am excited about what Fort Hays State University is going to do with this grant,” he said.

Fort Hays State will provide $11,892 in matching funds to develop programming for a replicable, modular smart classroom kit that provides access to new technology and teaches data literacy.

“The smart classroom space will enable faculty to implement new, more interactive teaching techniques,” said Nickerson. “For instance, students will be able to stand inside 3D models and manipulate data across multiple screens at once.”

She continued, “It will also enable the library to offer more interactive exhibits, where students can walk through history or a virtual art gallery. These capabilities are valuable because they help students to attain new media skills that are increasingly necessary in the workplace.”

“A number of other institutions, from community colleges to research universities, have agreed to help us plan the smart classroom prototype,” said Nickerson. “Based on the prototype, we'll develop a modular, portable smart classroom kit that can be deployed at other libraries and institutions. The kit is intended to increase equity and access to new technologies by removing cost barriers, particularly for rural communities.”

The kit will make it possible for smaller institutions, particularly in rural areas, to provide access to smart classroom technology — such as interactive data visualization and life-size 3D models — without large investments of time, money, or building renovation, thereby promoting digital literacy and inclusion for rural residents.

“I am so proud of this university,” said FHSU President Tisa Mason. “I really love how this university serves the community, nation and the world.”

“Libraries are no longer warehouses of books,” said Ludwig. “This grant exemplifies the library’s changing role in helping students and faculty analyze and interact with data and digital information.”

The project will be aided by an advisory group including academic librarians from a range of institutions in the region, including, in addition to Fort Hays State, the University of Nebraska-Kearney; the University of Kansas; Kansas State University; Pittsburg State University; Dodge City Community College; Johnson County Community College; and Labette Community College.

Jeff Briggs, in closing, emphasized points made by Marshall and President Mason.

“This project is indicative of the amazing work we do here at this university,” he said. “This is going to have a great impact in the region we serve.”

At the end, President Mason unveiled a surprise from Marshall. He brought with him a miniature bat signed by most of the members of the congressional Republican baseball team as a contribution to the 2018 Tiger Auction and Dinner on Saturday.

The National Leadership Grants for Libraries program is intended to address challenges and opportunities in the library and archives fields by supporting theory and practice with new tools, research findings, models, services, practices or alliances.