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$2 Million MacArthur Grant Drives Major Expansion of YOUmedia

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Library Commissioner Brian Bannon at the Humboldt Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library to announce on Thursday, February 20, 2014 a more than $2,000,000 expansion of the Chicago Public Library’s nationally recognized YOUmedia program, which provides teens across the city with digital learning experiences. Thanks to $500,000 in additional funding in Mayor Emanuel’s 2014 budget and a $2,000,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the C.P.L. will open new YOUmedia spaces at six libraries and launch a ‘pop-up’ program that will bring YOUmedia programs to twelve neighborhoods. This expansion to support digital teen services will make this program the largest of its kind in any U.S. public library.

I had mentioned the $2,000,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation in support of YOUmedia nineteen days before the C.P.L. press conference in “How Much Money has the MacArthur Foundation Given the CPL Foundation?” In it, I noted, “The MacArthur Foundation stated, [in regard to the $2,000,000 grant] ‘The Chicago Public Library's main library is the home of YOUmedia, an innovative space where teens have access to library resources, technology, and in-person and online mentors. Created in 2009 with Foundation resources based on findings from Foundation-funded research, YOUmedia has attracted widespread interest from U.S. and international libraries, museums, and out-of-school providers, many of which are eager to replicate the space and its programs. This grant will be used to implement YOUmedia in most of the Chicago Public Library's 77 branch libraries and expand existing YOUmedia programs to include explicit connections to career and academic opportunities.’”

“YOUmedia builds on teens’ interest in technology and motivates them to create, innovate and become active learners. By increasing access to digital media and safe, inviting spaces, we are empowering teens to engage technology in new ways and providing Chicago’s teens hands-on experience and training for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Mayor Emanuel.

According to the C.P.L., “This focus on digital learning is part of the Library’s overall goal to increase access to technology for Chicagoans of all ages. Recently named by a German university [Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf] as the best library system in the U.S. and third best in the world, Chicago Public Library is the largest provider of free Internet access in Chicago.”

The YOUmedia program will be expanded in two ways. Starting this summer, the C.P.L. will offer regular digital skill development programs at six library locations – the Albany Park, Back of the Yards, Hall and Legler Branch Libraries, as well as the Sulzer and Woodson Regional Libraries.

The C.P.L. will also offer twelve “pop-up” YOUmedia programs in various branches, offering one-to-two-day programs that will give teens the opportunity for hands-on experience with the latest in technology. In addition, over the past two years, the C.P.L. has added live online tutoring, online language tutorials as well as digital magazine access to its Web site. These activities will support Chicago’s youth in developing 21st Century skills and help them gain exposure to education and career pathways in fields related to their interests.

Currently, over 1,500 teens participate in the YOUmedia programs offered at five library locations throughout the city, with programming and services ranging from creative use of 3D printers and laser cutters to mentoring and workshops in digital media production from music, photography, animation, and graphic design. Program participants were approximately 50% African-American teenage boys living in at-risk neighborhoods who travel an average of five miles daily to access the program. YOUmedia programs provide access to technology as well as mentors who share their expertise in various areas of digital media production.

“Meanwhile,” the C.P.L. stated, “to build upon and further the success of programs such as the YOUmedia program, the Library has formally established a Teen Services Department, the first ever at CPL, to focus on the needs and interests of high school-age teens. With the addition of 26 librarians specializing in teen services and programming, this department will enable CPL to provide all Chicago teens with engaging learning opportunities and a supportive community to help foster their personal and academic growth.”

YOUmedia was launched at CPL in 2009 based on research supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of its initiative exploring how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life…

Chicago Public Library is the largest provider of free access to technology in Chicago, aiding residents who lack Internet access at home or work. With close to 3,000 computers and laptops available for public use, as well as assistance in learning how to navigate the Internet, the Library is leading the charge to close the digital divide and accelerate broadband adoption in our city. In addition to this crucial role, the Library also provides the public with free access to cutting-edge technology, offering patrons the information they seek in the formats they require, offering eBooks, digital magazines, downloadable audiobooks, music and video, as well as access to a myriad of online databases, such as Hoover’s Company Records and Morningstar.

The City strives to make every community a ‘smart community’ in which everyone is able to fully participate in the digital economy. Through Mayor Emanuel’s commitment to ensuring that Chicago citizens have equal access to the technology of the day, he launched Chicago’s first Technology Plan in 2013. Central to this plan is the role of CPL in supporting tech initiatives citywide. Increasing the number of digitally connected and technologically savvy residents and youth yields increased job placements, educational training and business growth opportunities. From eBooks to downloadable magazines, from 3D printers to learning how to safely navigate the Internet, the City and the Chicago Public Library will continue to help make technology relevant and highly accessible to Chicago’s youth and community residents.

“The Library has been increasing our focus on teens for several years, through YOUmedia and our Teen Volume program as well as recent partnerships with Steppenwolf Theatre and Now Is the Time Chicago, and this department will allow us to continue that deeper engagement with students as they develop the skills needed for their adult lives,” said Library Commissioner Bannon.

“MacArthur helped to create and support the innovative YOUmedia space, where teens can access library resources, technology, and in-person and online mentors that help connect their learning experiences to their interests,” said Robert Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “We are pleased to help the Library expand YOUmedia to even more city neighborhoods, and proud that it serves as a model for libraries across the country.”