BMO Harris Bank is giving $1 million and Allstate is donating $250,000 to an extremely popular and heavily used just-for-teens program in the Chicago Public Library system: YOUmedia. With twelve participating branches, four of which are geared towards tweens, while the other eight are for high school students, CPL is planning to add YOUmedia centers to five more branches by 2018 with this additional funding. This groundbreaking program focuses on the Connected Learning model in which “students achieve higher-order learning outcomes when their work is focused on topics that are personally interesting and relevant to them.” Beyond that, there is also a focus on production and peer-supported learning environments, where teens learn from each other as well as from mentors in the community who provide expert advice on things like photography, 2D/3D design, music production, and other aspects of technology and digital literacy that allow those teens to produce, create, experiment, and design.
As someone who used to work at YOUmedia at the flagship CPL location,Harold Washington, I saw first-hand what a positive impact this space has for teens. Not only does it provide a safe space for teens to hang out, mess around, and geek out, it also provides a productive environment that can help develop personal interests into lifelong careers. Just ask Chance the Rapper, who regularly talks about the impact YOUmedia had for him; it provided him the ability to hone his craft (with music) in the recording studio and the open mics dedicated solely to the teens that use the space. That’s part of what makes this program so special, and why so many other libraries and institutions have followed suit.
Not only does it include the public library itself, but it’s a platform that is perfect to network and connect with other institutions in the community, all for the benefit of the teens that use the space. The mentors at YOUmedia come from places like Hive Chicago and the Digital Media and Learning Hub. It makes for a much richer experience for everyone involved. There are other YOUmedia spaces all over the country now, and other public libraries are modelling their own spaces off the ideas that have come to fruition at YOUmedia. Places like the Evanston Public Library, for example. The Loft at Evanston Public Library is also a dedicated teen space that uses the Connected Learning model. It has partnered with local institutions like Youth and Opportunity United, Northwestern University, and a slew of others. At this point, it’s not a question of whether or not a dedicated teen space should be created in a public library, it’s a necessity. There does seem to be some resistance to this idea because libraries never had spaces like this before, but given the popularity and growth at YOUmedia, it is obvious that there is a need for it now. We want to help these almost grownups; we want them to develop a love of lifelong learning, and we can provide them with those means.
Link to source article: (1)
Additional Sources used: (2) http://www.ala.org/transforminglibraries/future/trends/connectedlearning