Pushing the Limits 2013.01.09

Written by David Green.



Kelley Burrow is a perfect fit for “Pushing the Limits.” She’s just the sort of person the creators of the program had in mind.

When Stair Public Library director Colleen Leddy told her what the program was about—a project to emphasize science through reading novels—Kelley was interested in attending.

“I wasn’t very good in math and science when I was going to school,” Kelley said, but rather than shy away from the topic, she sees the program as an opportunity to explore science.

She thinks a science program for adults is a great idea, and to approach it through fiction makes it even better.

Stair Public Library is one of only 20 public libraries nationwide receiving grants to serve as pilot sites for a four-part series. The free program brings together books and video featuring authors, scientists and everyday people who thrive on exploring the natural world.

Discussion sessions will be led by  “science partner” Adam Coughlin, an exercise science professor at Adrian College.

Coughlin said he went to school as an art major, but his long-standing interest in science grabbed him and led him in a new direction.

“When I was a kid we had the Charlie Brown Encyclopedia and a regular encyclopedia,” he said. “I’ve obviously been fascinated by science for a long time. I’m a science geek and I enjoy sharing it with others.”

He sees the Pushing the Limits format as an interesting way to bring science into people’s lives.

“The opportunity to share science with the public is intriguing,” Coughlin said. “It’s a fascinating grant.”

He’s impressed that science will be brought to the forefront of people’s minds not in a classroom setting but instead from the pages of novels.

Coughlin expects that most participants will have read the chosen book before the discussion, but he said it isn’t a requirement.

Each of the four sessions will begin with a five-minute video focusing on the author. Information will be presented about the authors’ fascination with the topics and the motivation for having written the book.

Then, a 10-minute video will follow about one of four themes—Connection, Nature, Survival and Knowledge. That video is not connected to the book at all.

It’s up to participants to decide how the two might be connected.

“I think that’s a lot of what science does,” Coughlin said, “it takes two things and connects them together.

“I’m excited about the program. I think it will be interesting to show how science pertains to everyday life.”

Stair’s program will kick off with a family and community event—STEAM Extravaganza!—scheduled Feb. 2. A visit from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is included among a variety of activities planned for the day.

The first of four monthly discussion sessions begins Thursday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. with “Thunderstruck” by Erik Larsen. The book is available now at the library in a variety of formats including CD, large print, paperback and hardcover.


• Stair Public Library is one of 20 public libraries nationwide to serve as a pilot site for the series. Eventually it will be extended to 100 more rural libraries in the U.S. 

The program was developed by a team of library professionals, scientists and filmmakers. Their organizations include Dartmouth College, the Association for Rural and Small Libraries, the Califa Group (a California-based library consortium), Dawson Media Group and Oregon State University.

Since the beginning of time, humans have imagined and achieved ways to push the boundaries of the physical world.  We want to be stronger, smarter, and more aware, and we create stories to bring those dreams to life.  But many of those stories are no longer just stories; and with great new advances in science and technology, we are finding ways in which all of us are able to push the limits every day.    

This national program has been developed by a team of library professionals, scientists, and filmmakers. Their organizations include Dartmouth College, the Association for Rural and Small Libraries, the Califa Group (a California-based library consortium), Dawson Media Group, and Oregon State University-- with generous funding from the National Science Foundation.

It offers an occasion to bring diverse groups together at the library to discuss how we as humans have imagined and achieved ways to push the boundaries of the physical world.  

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