Farmington Public Library receives grant for NASA events and programming

Library director Karen McPheeters says grant's benefits far exceed its funding

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
This artist's concept shows NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched into orbit in December. Some of the images it beams back to earth may be showcased at the Farmington Public Library as part of a grant the institution received recently.
  • The NASA @ My Library grant is for $1,600.
  • The Farmington Public Library was one of three libraries in New Mexico to receive the grant.
  • Libray officials plan to announce programming related to the grant soon.

FARMINGTON — While the money associated with a new grant received by the Farmington Public Library is relatively small, library director Karen McPheeters says the award carries other benefits that far outweigh the funding.

Library officials announced Sept. 16 that the institution was one of 60 libraries across the country to receive a $1,600 NASA @ My Library grant, which is designed to help recipients increase and enhance STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math -— learning opportunities for library patrons. The grant will allow the library to play host to NASA events and programming, which has McPheeters very excited.

"This grant was not so much about the money as it was about the access for us – access to the literature and access to the telescope," she said, referring to the new James Webb Space Telescope — the largest, most powerful and most complex space telescope ever built, according to NASA — which will be launched into orbit in December. "If we can bring that here, it's fabulous. That's pretty amazing."

McPheeters said that as part of the grant, the Farmington Public Library may have access to images from the telescope before much of the rest of the country does.

Under the terms of the grant, the library also has established partnerships with other local entities, such as the San Juan College Planetarium, and those relationships will be maximized to provide an array of new programming. McPheeters said she didn't have any examples of what that programming might look like, since planning has just begun. But she did say it would begin soon, and she anticipates library patrons will be excited about it.

When the library staff submitted its application during the competitive grant process, McPheeters said it was careful to emphasize the large Native population it serves, especially since Navajo people have such a special relationship with astronomical objects. She said she believes that made a difference in her library's application and helped it earn one of the grants.

The Farmington Public Library has received a NASA @ My Library grant, which will allow the institution to increase and enhance STEAM learning opportunities for its patrons.

"We have always tried hard to provide culturally relevant programming, but that's been our focus for the last 10 years," she said. "We want to make sure to provide cultural programming in proportion to our population."

McPheeters said the library plans to arrange programming featuring Navajo storyteller Sunny Dooley.

McPheeters said the library plans to arrange programming featuring Navajo storyteller Sunny Dooley.

Dooley is a distinguished visiting professor of literature and storyteller-in-residence at Colgate University. Dooley described herself on her website as a  "storyteller, folklorist and cultural consultant – collecting, learning and retelling the oral tradition of the Diné Hozhojii Hané (Navajo Blessingway stories)."

McPheeters described Dooley as a wonderful storyteller, one who moves seamlessly during her presentations between the English and Navajo languages without ever losing the attention of her audience.

"She's particularly gifted as a storyteller, so we were really excited about the opportunity to bring her in," McPheeters said.

The library also will offer programming related to special astronomical events, including the winter and summer solstices. The institution's building was constructed with solstice markers placed in the floor, and celebrations of those events already have been a big part of the library's programming for several years.

The NASA @ My Library programming is presented through the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute in partnership with the American Library Association, the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the Education Development Center.

"It'll end up being a really great program for us," McPheeters said.

The Farmington Public Library was not the only institution in New Mexico to earn one of the grants. The Belen Public Library and the Octavia Fellen Public Library in Gallup also were named recipients.

For more information about how the Farmington Public Library will use the grant, visit or call 505-599-1270.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.