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How does the Chicago Public Library transform itself to deliver relevant lifelong learning opportunities for youth in public libraries and other out-of-school informal learning environments?
YOUmedia is a 21st century learning space for teens opened in July 2009 by the Chicago Public Library in partnership with Digital Youth Network. YOUmedia at the Harold Washington Library Center, virtually at the ym.iremix.org social learning network, and 3 branch library sites opening in June 2011, links high school-age youth to adult mentors, digital resources, books, relevant programming and engaging workshops. By working both collaboratively and self-paced with a variety of digital media, young adults have an opportunity to engage in projects which support critical thinking, creativity, skill-building and ultimately civic engagement. Based on research by Dr. Mimi Ito at University of California-Irvine, YOUmedia was designed to address new implications for youth interaction and learning with digital media by becoming a model “out-of-school” environment created by and for teens.
YOUmedia has become a new entry point into library resources for teens and provides them with opportunities to gather and learn in ways which are of particular interest to them. YOUmedia has transformed CPL by creating spaces and lifelong learning activities within the library where youth not only consume media, but create and produce it. Approximately 5,000 youth from 70 high schools have visited YOUmedia since 2009. Circulation of teen books from the main library has risen approximately 600% from pre-YOUmedia days while awareness and usage of items such as music recordings and special collections has increased exponentially. Teens are leveling-up their media production skills as they engage with mentors, attend workshops and tinker with new types of media. YOUmedia has become the hub of a learning network in Chicago, placing the public library in the center of a new learning ecosystem for youth where learning happens anyplace, anytime. In 2010, YOUmedia was cited by President Obama as a national model for informal learning environments for youth and will be replicated in libraries and museums both nationally and internationally.