Mega Subramaniam | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Educators

After an inner-city middle schooler participated in an after-school library program called HackHealth, her mother reported dramatic changes in the family’s grocery shopping. “She’s telling me ‘No, mommy, I want to drink water instead of this.... You shouldn’t be doing that.... Did you look at the sodium content?’ ”

Mega Subramaniam

CURRENT POSITION

Associate Professor & Director of the Youth eXperience (YX) Lab, College of Information Studies (iSchool), University of Maryland, College Park

DEGREE

PhD, Florida State University, College of Information, 2007

FOLLOW

@mmsubram; terpconnect.umd.edu/~mmsubram; hackhealth.umd.edu; yxlab.ischool.umd.edu

Photo ©2019 Matt Lawrence Photography

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Hack Learning

After an inner-city middle schooler participated in an after-school library program called HackHealth, her mother reported dramatic changes in the family’s grocery shopping. “She’s telling me ‘No, mommy, I want to drink water instead of this.... You shouldn’t be doing that.... Did you look at the sodium content?’ ”

This type of real-world effect is among the reasons professor Mega Subramaniam concentrates her research on the impact of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs in libraries. Named by its ten- to 15-year-old participants, HackHealth was offered from 2013 to 2016 to 63 students attending five public middle schools in Maryland. The program helped improve students’ health literacy and increased their interest in the sciences. For eight to 12 weeks, school librarians and Subramaniam’s research team facilitated weekly sessions with students, many from low-income families, to guide them in building their information literacy skills while researching a health topic.

Subramaniam’s ability to develop and lead initiatives such as HackHealth, the Youth eXperience (YX) continuing education certificate, the YX specialization at University of Maryland’s (UMD) iSchool master’s program, and the ConnectedLib project (which she co-leads) directly supports librarians. “She is at the forefront of research on STEM and libraries (both public and school), connected learning, and digital youth,” says nominator Linda Braun, a learning consultant who works with the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

The first YX cohort presented at the 2017 YALSA Symposium and the 2018 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting on transforming teen services and technology in youth programs, respectively. Led by Subramaniam, the UMD iSchool’s YX research team recently developed the YX lab to help librarians create learning experiences that link across disciplines such as math and art. Subramaniam is also seeking grants for research to demonstrate the outcomes of STEM-related digital literacies in public libraries.

“We all know that libraries are important and librarians make a difference in their communities,” says Subramaniam. “Demonstrating and sharing such impact through research evidence is what I view as my professional contribution to the field.”

Subramaniam’s long-term goals include extending her effort to other countries. As a Fulbright Specialist with the U.S. Department of State, she will work with the Library and Information Consortium of Kyrgyzstan in April and May to reenvision youth services in their public libraries.

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