Main Library Will Add a Youth Media Space

November 20, 2012

The Pima County Public Library will receive a $100,000 grant to design a Learning Lab for young people, including a youth media space at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library.

This will be a new space where young people can connect with mentors and peers, as well as new media and traditional materials to pursue their interests more deeply and connect these new skills to academics, career, and civic engagement.

Inspired by YOUmedia, a teen space at the Chicago Public Library, and innovations in science and technology centers, these labs will help young people move beyond consuming content to making and creating it.

The Pima County Public Library is one of five museums and seven libraries across the country that will receive a total of $1.2 million from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to plan and design the labs. The grant is part of a second round of winners in a national competition to create 21st century labs in museums and libraries around the country.

PCPL will plan three unique media spaces to serve middle and high school youth throughout Pima County. The library plans to address the diverse needs of youth through a mobile media lab, a youth media space in Downtown Tucson, and an online community.

The planning process – which is slated to take 18 months – will bring together a leadership team of partners with a deep history of youth media programming along with established teen groups that already meet at the library.

“It’s a great source of pride for Pima County Public Library to be among the 24 communities selected nationwide to plan these new labs,” said Ramón Valadez, chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. “We’re set to revolutionize how young people learn and participate, and our library system is leading the way.”

“Thanks to this grant, we’re going to create something that the youth in our urban, suburban, and rural communities really need and want,” said PCPL Executive Director Melinda Cervantes. “We’re looking forward to working with a dynamic mix of partners, including Access Tucson, Josh Schachter Photography, the University of Arizona Computer Science Department, and the library’s Youth Design Team.”

Each Learning Lab will be designed to facilitate a research-based education model known as connected learning – one that promotes discovery, creativity, critical thinking and real-world learning through activities and experiences that bring together academics and young people’s interests, often facilitated by digital and traditional media. The winning institutions will match the funds from the competition and partner with local educational, cultural, and civic organizations to build a network of learning opportunities for young people.

“Pima County doesn’t currently have a space for youth to connect and share their experiences through digital media arts. We want to provide the space and support for youth to express their voices,” explained Jennifer Nichols, Senior Librarian at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library and Project Manager for the Learning Labs grant. “We’re going to fill that gap with three unique spaces from which youth can reach out to the whole community.”

“Digital media are revolutionizing the way young people learn, socialize, and engage in civic life,” said Julia Stasch, Vice President of U.S. Programs for the MacArthur Foundation. “These innovative labs are designed to provide today’s youth with the space, relationships, and resources to connect their social worlds and interests with academics, and to better prepare them for success in the 21st century.”

“Because of the expertise and content we have to offer, museums and libraries are uniquely positioned to offer young people meaningful learning experiences that link to science, art, and technology,” said Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “With caring mentors and skilled professionals on staff to guide teens in their exploration, Learning Labs help youth express themselves and hone their skills in a safe environment.”

Along with Tucson, AZ, the new Learning Labs are planned for: Dallas, TX; Madison, WI; Rochester, NY; Oakland, CA; Billings, MT; Poughkeepsie, NY; Richmond, VA; Tuscaloosa, AL; Pittsburgh, PA; Lynn, MA; and Las Vegas, NV.