Skip Navigation
Back to Navigation

Scaling Connected Learning for Teens

← Back

Scaling Connected Learning for Teens

Chicago Public Library, Ill.

Operations & Management | 2015 | Honorable Mention

Innovation Synopsis

CPL reorganized its program staff and aligned financial resources to form a new department to support its 2015-17 Strategic Plan. CPL leadership launched a new teen team – predicated on the principles that led to success in YOUmedia – to accelerate improved services for and learning outcomes among Chicago’s teens.


CPL completed a Strategic Plan in which we prioritized the creation of welcoming spaces and interest-based activities for teens; supportive mentorship to develop teens’ skills and growth; and providing greater connections to college and career pathways for teens. At the same time, CPL received financial support from the City to grow its YOUmedia program from five to eleven sites. Chicago’s emerging Cities of Learning initiative, with the library at its center, further enabled and fueled the creation of this new team. Leveraging CPL’s YOUmedia experience and relationships within our youth serving and professional ecosystem, CPL seized this opportunity to quickly develop robust Connected Learning capacity that allows us to support programming in multiple locations.

Key Elements of Innovation

A new team was formed to hire dozens of new teen serving staff, deepen professional development goals and routines for these staff and build upon CPL’s experience with Human-Centered Design to design and deliver new services for teens. Before forming the team, CPL documented program components from YOUmedia to be considered for replication (eg. interest-driven learning supported by mentors.) From these programmatic components, we created staffing to support system-wide professional development, create program templates and design guides, and establish program standards while allowing for site-based customization. Once formed, the team launched a plan and developed partnerships to support program goals.

Achieved Outcomes

The CPL teen services team leads and supports Connected Learning services across Chicago. Within one year, CPL has hired more than 30 additional teen library staff and established teen library programs at 25 branch libraries. The team has conducted monthly professional development sessions for these and additional librarians to build and strengthen program quality. CPL successfully expanded its YOUmedia program to six additional sites and leveraged a public/private partnership to remodel three of these branches to provide an updated teen center featuring recording studios, collaborative work and performance space, makerspaces and digital design tools. CPL’s teen services team has also integrated a summer employment program. As a result, teen participation at our YOUmedia sites grew by 50% in 2014 over 2013.