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The Future of Libraries?
Philadelphia teens design their own library
A recent program in Philadelphia illustrates one of the core tenets of YOUmedia – incorporating youth voice in the planning and ongoing work at YOUmedia. It also points to the future of libraries.
As Teen Programming Specialist K-Fai Steel writes on the their project page site, the Philadelphia Free Library asked teens what they wanted in a library. And they got their answer.
The program engaged 35 “Teen Programming Assistants” in laying the “groundwork for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s IMLS/MacArthur Youth Design Council, researching and developing ideas on their ideal teen space and programming.”
The teens set to work planning and designing, using digital media tools to organize their ideas and presentations, ranging from Tumblr to mapping tools.
In their brainstorming, the Team Leaders encouraged the teens to “think big,” as Steel reports:
Consider classes they wanted to take but couldn't because the classes are too expensive, or their schools don't offer it. For example, one group found … that their neighborhood lacked affordable, good (and healthy) food. The teen group proposed a cooking class that teens could participate in after school, where they could not only learn how to cook, but be able to enjoy the food they created.
Cooking in a library? Is this the future of libraries?
It just might be. Chicago Library Commissioner Brian Bannon has been thinking a lot about the future of libraries. As home to the original YOUmedia, Chicago’s downtown Harold Washington Library has been ahead of the curve in this inventive, adaptive thinking.
As he told American Libraries, “New media has shown that there’s another angle to how we can continue to look at the work we do in a neighborhood library—to understand who we’re serving, how we build experiences and entry points to learning that are best aligned with folks in that community; that is really our charge.”
And if that means bringing teens in with cooking classes to feed their neighborhood better as a way to spark their passion, then so be it.
In an interview with us here in the YOUmedia Network’s Toolkit about the future of libraries, Bannon captures the essence of connected learning and YOUmedia’s mission.
“While we focus on books and learning as the entry point to learning, we know we learn in many different ways. YOUmedia is a call to action to libraries …to connect with each of our users where they learn. YOUmedia represents the many different ways that we can make that happen.”
“New media,” he told American Libraries “provides insight into where libraries are headed. If you look at the research that influenced the first iteration of new media, it’s about understanding where our users are—understanding how they learn, how they interact, and seeing that it’s all part of the process of connecting them to knowledge and ideas in a way that best resonates for them.”
That’s why in Philadelphia, they’re listening to their teens, giving them voice, and creating buy-in along the way. By connecting the teens and allowing their ideas to be heard, their interests to drive their learning, the program is creating that spark for learning that is at the center of connected learning.
For more on how the teens worked together collectively to design their future space and what they want to see in their community libraries, read the full report here.
MORE. YOUmedia leaders discuss more ideas of how to incorporate student voice in YOUmedia in a series of videos in the FAQ section of the Toolkit’s “Programs” guide. See the question: How do we incorporate student voice into program design?