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Best Buy Teen Tech Center
Hennepin County Library, MNGo to Website
Innovation SummaryThe Hennepin County Library partnered with Best Buy to create and open one of the first Best Buy Teen Tech Centers in the United States – and the only one in a public library. This space, housed adjacent to the library’s Teen Central space, is a members-only space where youth ages 12-18 can pursue their interests and use new technologies with help from other teens and adult mentors.
Over the past few years, the Hennepin County Library has continued to grow new programs and models for working with young people to support and expand their interests – using emerging media tools to help them connect, create and collaborate. We have had a number of successful programs, including the Teen Tech Squad, where youth are employed to help teach other young people how to create new content and explore new types of creativity. As we continued to succeed with these programs, we discovered the need for a better space where youth and adults could work together – a program that didn’t have to be set up in a library meeting room – and one that was regularly open enough hours so that young folks could come to count on it. All of the 41 libraries in our system have areas and materials for teens, but very few had the kinds of spaces that are now needed for this kind of work. As we identified options internally, Best Buy, based in Hennepin County, was also beginning a new initiative to build and support a number of Teen Tech Centers throughout the United States. Hennepin County Library applied for this opportunity and began work with Best Buy to design, build out and run the space on a relatively short timeline – the completed space opened just 7 months after beginning the process.
The key elements of this innovation include: • The partnership between public and private funding – Best Buy funded the complete build-out of the space; the Library and Hennepin County Property Services worked closely to ensure the design and furnishings met existing standards and would be sustainable in the long term. An initial operating grant from Best Buy has provided one year of funding for staff in the space and other additional programmatic elements. Both the Library and our corporate partner shared a vision for how much value this new space would bring to youth in our community. • The pairing of this new space – in which youth and adults (staff and community volunteers) work closely together – with our existing Teen Central space – has permitted us to provide broader service than we would have been able to do with just one of them. The existing Teen Central space, while limited in age to 12-18, welcomes youth for whatever purpose they’d like to use the space – they can browse for books, listen to music, get on the public computers, get homework assistance or talk with friends. The new Teen Tech Center space is one for which membership is required – youth who are using this space are asked to sign a membership agreement and commit to using resources in tech center that aren’t available in the rest of the library. Youth sign up to use the recording studio and work closely with adult mentors on other areas of their choosing. This focus enables us to work more intentionally with a specific group of youth.
The Best Buy Teen Tech Center @ Minneapolis Central Library held its opening event on January 31, 2013 and since then young people have been actively exploring their new space and the powerful tools. In the first two months of operation membership has steadily grown and members are creating projects - with the encouragement of staff and mentors - and beginning to build portfolios. Music production has been the most popular activity / basis for projects in the first month of operation and we have been doing brief demonstrations in with other tools and programs such as Garage Band and ProTools with members, some of which are already engineering others and sharing what they've learned with their peers. Our anticipated outcomes for this space reflect the outcomes for the Intel Computer clubhouse model that have been demonstrated in their over 100 sites throughout the world: • Youth develop 21st-century skills, find pathways to success, and build a commitment to community service. • Youth who are involved will report greater competency in problem-solving, collaboration and use of technology tools. • 94% of members either “probably” or “definitely” believe they will graduate from high school, while 93% “definitely” or “probably” plan to continue their education. • Activities provide a wealth of opportunities for youth to establish constructive dialogue, represent information and ideas effectively, and express themselves with clarity and nuance.