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TechStudio

Gwinnett County Public Library, GA
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Innovation Summary

GCPL designed a branch digital media lab, featuring digital tools and software that encourages teens and young adults to produce, edit and share video, music, photography, and design projects. The studio promotes self-directed learning and content creation and supports teens in their efforts to develop STEM skills.

Innovation Leader: Michael Casey, Division Director, Information Technology, mcasey@gwinnettpl.org

Problem Statement

GCPL wanted to establish a learning environment to give teens the tools and resources to develop their digital skills and prepare them for the global workforce—a space where they would be creators and collaborators, not just users responding to content. The Tech Studio would fulfill a Strategic Plan objective to “invite user participation” and “provide customers with the tools and abilities to contribute content” and also address the “digital divide” by serving as a technology access point when schools are not in session. The space would also be a response to the ubiquitous “user gap”—prevalent among teens—where access to technology does not necessarily translate into participation. Studio planners were charged with developing procedures and guidelines for implementing this service, reviewing and updating hardware and software, and soliciting feedback and comments from users. Customizable and responsive learning models were implemented to satisfy the learning pace of all users and connect teens to a “networked” life in order to develop their creative, critical, and collaborative thinking skills. Technology services, equipment, and applications were explored with a goal of instilling a sense of empowerment and independence into the teen user’s library experience.

Innovation

The studio provides access to software and equipment where users can create and share music, podcasts, movies, photo albums, design brochures, e-newsletters, business logos, and flyers. Users can film, edit and upload interviews for genealogy and oral history projects. The space is giving area teens the opportunity to become students, users, and architects of 21st century technology, providing access to interactive learning and research principles that will demonstrate the impact technology has on the modern world and their daily lives. The lab planners and the Emerging Technologies Committee, working with the Branch Services Director and IT Director, planned and implemented a deployment, training and management model for the studio. Beyond the physical renovation of library space, we considered just what kind of institutional transformations were needed to assure that staff, board members, community leaders, and library users are able to meet the challenges created by the studio. This digital space required no less than an evolution in GCPL’s service delivery model: staying technologically relevant while meeting the challenges of staff training, space limitations and budget restrictions. Partners engaged to assist with consultation, training, design and equipment and review: TV Gwinnett, the county’s public school and government channel; Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology, and the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (advocates and participates in efforts to introduce and enhance STEM education to underrepresented teens). GCPL is re-inventing the ways in which we engage teen users and the studio transforms the library into a savvy communal meeting place where area teens can hang out, study, and pursue technology with equal vigor.

Progress

Early struggles—moderate, but anticipated—emerged and were overcome. Be prepared to address: staff training and availability; space access; security; customer comments regarding the project’s affect on a tight budget; mentoring from peers, tech students and community professionals; facilitation of the user experience. Also consider: appropriate security measures; library card requirements; reservations and time limits. Be cognizant of the space’s sustainability; change in technology is both rapid and continuous. Planners will ensure that the scope of the lab will not be too far-reaching in time, giving us sufficient flexibility to incorporate ground-breaking products not yet available. Measurable outcomes: Increases: teen online usage, related print circulation; teen library card registration, and studio visits by first time and return users and newcomers to the library. Also study ease of use; usage patterns, and implementation/completion rate of self-directed projects. More structured programs will need to be implemented, like game creation contests, oral history recordings, and activities that encourage Studio usage by young girls. One down, fourteen to go? If the space is a success, how does the library overcome budget restrictions and create more physical studios? Gwinnett is a large county with a limited public transportation system. Studio planners will need to identify the level of need in other branches and determine if there are remote access options that can be explored. The TechStudio goes a long way in helping re-establish the library’s credibility and relevance to the challenging teen demographic—it can now be seen as a “cool” place to go.