Library turns traditional lectures into engaging stories

Sometimes a lecture at a symposium isn’t the best way to tell the masses about an amazing new discovery. NASA took an alternative approach when its Science Outreach program started showing up at storytelling festivals.

“Storytelling is the most basic form of communication,” said Janet Lowe, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival coordinator and librarian. “The best teachers throughout history have taught through story.”

On Sept. 1, the Orem Public Library will showcase a mixture of storytelling and science with “The Many Moons of Saturn: Project Cassini.” The program will be presented by Todd Barber, a lead NASA propulsion engineer for almost 20 years.


During the event, Barber will present information ,as well as some stories about his experiences with projects like the Mars Rover Project and the Deep Space 1 mission in addition to his current work with Project Cassini and Saturn.

“We try to bring together experts in this field. It’s [an] exciting dynamic,” Lowe said.  “Whether it’s geology, history … we try to help the individual explore, learn and grow. “

Nan Black met up with the NASA team in Tennessee in October 2009 at the National Storytelling Festival in Tennessee and became interested in what they had to offer. This year Barber and the NASA Science Outreach team were invited to present at the library and the Storytelling Festival among other events.

This will be the first time Barber has done a presentation like this in Utah. It’s also the first time that the library has hosted a “primary source engineer.”

“I don’t know enough about space to know why an image is so spectacular.” Lowe said. “To be told that by somebody [who knows] how it felt. It’s like being in the driver’s seat instead of just reading about it.”