Luther senior Belau, junior Kern working with Decorah Public Library for summer research project

Public libraries can contribute to the growth of a town and the minds that inhabit it, according to Luther College senior Keanna Belau and junior Collin Kern. Belau and Kern's research show that the public libraries' viability is sustained upon the ability to adapt to the needs of the community they serve. Partnering with the Decorah Public Library, Belau and Kern are researching ways in which the library can remain a treasured resource for the community.

Belau, the daughter of JoAnn and Keith Belau of Rush City, Minnesota, is a 2015 graduate of Rush City High School. She is majoring in business management at Luther.

Kern, the son of Dave and EG Kern of Bloomington, Minnesota, is a 2016 graduate of Kennedy High School. He is majoring in social work at Luther.

The pair are working with Britt Rhodes, Luther associate professor of social work, Brittany Cord, Luther assistant professor of accounting and management, and Alexandra White, Luther assistant professor of management.

Belau's partnership with the Decorah Public Library has shaped how she views the community resource and its ties to the community. "This research is important because there is a misconception about the necessity of libraries, but they are so important to the community as a social gathering space and an educational learning space as well. It is important for libraries to continue to stay relevant within the community and always keep asking what can they do and what they can provide for the community," reflected Belau.

Kern's partnership with the Library has led to a deeper understanding of the inner workings of politics in Decorah, as well as understanding the role of the public library in the community. "The Decorah Public Library has already made numerous changes over the years, and this project is specifically focused on identifying what more the library could do for the community. As long as a library keeps asking, 'how can we serve the community better?', libraries will remain a treasured resource," reflected Kern.

His advice to other students considering a research project at Luther is to "talk to your professors and let them know you are interested in doing research. I had been talking about doing research with a professor for about a year, and I when this opportunity began to develop my professor kept me involved."

Belau, Kern, Rhodes, Cord and White's collaboration is one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther's College Scholars Program and Dean's Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities that are part of Luther's academic core and intend to deepen the learning process.

Luther College's Social Impact Fellowship Program partners together one student studying social work and one student studying business to research a problem and develop a business plan for a solution.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.

Keanna Belau
Collin Kern