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Building the eLibrary

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Government has long identified STEM education as a major priority, built on strong subject teaching. Alice Coates, National STEM Centre Project Officer, provides an introduction.

Alice-CoatesAbout the author:  Alice Coates is the National STEM Centre Project Officer. The National STEM Centre is building the UK’s largest open collection of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classroom teaching resources to provide a treasure chest of inspiration for teachers and lecturers of STEM subjects.

In 2008 the National STEM Centre was set the challenge, by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, to create an electronic library of resources to support teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Gatsby was set up by David Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Turville) who is passionate about science and engineering education.

The purpose of the National STEM Centre is to provide straightforward access to high-quality resources, information and guidance that supports teachers and schools.

Initially starting as a physical library based in York, it quickly became imperative to broaden the accessibility of the resources to all teachers across the UK.  As a result, in July 2010 an electronic library was quickly developed, digitising a range of archive resources, alongside the collation of a significant contemporary resource collection.

The National STEM Centre now houses the UK’s largest collection of STEM teaching and learning resources, allowing teachers online access to material previously only available in hard copy.

The challenge

Since its establishment in 2008, the National STEM Centre has:

  • Developed a high-quality resources eLibrary that currently provides teachers free access to nearly 8,000 teaching and learning materials
  • Built a freely available high-specification online Community infrastructure to foster teacher-to-teacher support
  • Built a communications website to provide teachers of STEM subjects with easy signposting to support available from other STEM education partners


Phase 1: Building the eLibrary:
The specification and build of the site was closely contributed to by a group of qualified and experienced teachers who were able to advise on the most likely ways that teachers would use the site and what they would expect to find – influencing the design and functionality throughout the build. Following an open tender process for the build it was decided to use a bespoke Content Management System developed by Interactive Web Solutions.

  • Forging relationships with publishers
    The initial development phase of the eLibrary involved identifying key resources that teachers would like to see on the eLibrary and approaching the publishers of these resources. All resources are housed on the National STEM Centre website, rather than links to other sites, so the copyright holders permission is required.
  • Hosting a wide range of resources online
    Resources in the eLibrary collections range across materials for the 5-19 age group, and include resources produced by government, learned societies, charitable foundations and commercial publishers. There are a growing number of contemporary materials – including print, multimedia, and practical resources.


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