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December 6, 2018

A Librarian on Mars

by Kurt Gottschalk

Sally Stieglitz

Adjunct professor Sally Stieglitz, J.D., takes the librarian’s mission of fostering lifelong learning to heart. As Adelphi’s digital learning and instruction librarian, she’s dedicated to the promotion of online accuracy—she’s even led workshops on campus to help people identify false information and illegitimate news sources. And in her spare time, she’s continuing her own lifelong learning, most recently as a NASA-dubbed “social influencer.”

Stieglitz was one of 30 people selected—from over 700 who applied, she said—to visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The group had the rare opportunity to tour the facility and meet with NASA specialists. They got to see NASA Mission Control, a simulated Martian landscape used to test InSight’s capabilities and the lab where the Mars 2020 Rover is being built. But most important, on November 26, they got to sit alongside those scientists and watch through closed-circuit telecast as the InSight Mars lander touched down on the red planet.

While the usual team of print and broadcast journalists was on hand to witness the historic mission, NASA had made the unusual move of inviting a cadre of social media reporters as well. Stieglitz was part of a group of teachers, scientists and artists, even an acrobat and the Canadian singer and comic book artist Lights, who were invited because of their unique holds on social media. The social influencers reported on the historic mission via Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms.

“They were just looking to reach different people,” she explained. “Some were well known in their fields and others were just people who they thought would reach out to a lot of people.”

Full days were spent meeting with NASA scientists and seeing the facilities before the big event. More than a week after her adventure, Stieglitz still brims over with excitement when she talks about witnessing the mission to Mars.

“We were ecstatic,” she said. “We knew this might not be a successful landing; there’s always that chance. It was magnificent to imagine people could do something like that. I mean, people have trouble parking their cars!”

Stieglitz said that she hasn’t always been a space enthusiast, but following NASA on Twitter had piqued her interest. And once the applications and security checks were done and approved, she had the opportunity to invest in her own lifelong learning. Now, she said, she’s a “NASA follower for life.”

The experience, she explained, “was exhausting and invigorating. We were just immersed in this learning environment. What you can learn in such a short amount of time is astounding.”

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