YOUmedia Provides Digital Tech to Students

By Jeramie L Bizzle

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North Grand High School Junior Edgar Najera, 17, researching some of the workshops offered by the YOUmedia program. 

Libraries are pictured to be a dry dessert with the memories of being a hangout for students’ afterschool and an accessible source for computers for adults. This thought was triggered from the recent increase in the use of digital media by teens and adults, but the Chicago Public Library have put those rumors to rest with its latest initiative YOUmedia.

The program began in 2009 at the Harold Washington Center located at 400 S. State Street with the idea of providing a place for teens to engage in different digital media projects including design, photography, and music. Over the years, the program made its way to other libraries including Richard M. Daley, Thurgood Marshall, and in 2013 Humboldt Park. Branch Manager Sara Tansley says that with this program she has seen an increase of visitors who love what it offers.

“With our regular programs such as the book clubs and navigator programs we would have about 20 or 30 visitors per week, but since this program I personally have seen about 400 visitors in a day,” Tansley said.

She mentions that contrary to popular belief, the library is going on strong despite digital media outside its facilities.

“Our digital resources, book circulation, and eBooks among library cards are on the rise at this location. We were impacted by the economy as far as hours of operations, but folks don’t have money for computers. This new format is not distracting because it brings in more new customers.”

The study behind YOUmedia is based on a study of 700 youth by professor Mizuko Ito who concluded that the three ways they interact are by hanging out on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc; messing around with apps like Instagram; and geeking out by browsing new things . In addition to what they’re familiar with, they’ll learn new techniques that’ll help skill building which can benefit them in school and in future careers.

Julie Koslowsky, outreach coordinator for YOUmedia at CPL, in a conference call says that this program helps students, who have a passion for digital media, work in a space where they can work on projects in addition to interacting with others in a safe environment.

“Libraries have always been a safe place, but this program provides an extension of that. This helps provide additional resources to those who need the extra support while learning with these great programs,” Koslowsky said.

Students in the program work with different types of software and programs for photography, podcasting, and 3D printing. She continues to mention that learning can be a little messy, but it’s all a part of the fun.

“The program is geared towards middle school and high school students, and depending on the location of the branch it depends on what is offered at that time, but they rotate these workshops for learning every three months so each location can experience all of what is offered.”

Some of the worked created by participants in the program can be viewed on www.libraryofgames.org where they can post videos, podcast, and blogs. “Majority of the work they created they rather put on their personal sites, but we are also helping them create an online portfolio which is important,” Koslowsky says.

The Chicago Public Library’s website have more of the images and stories that highlight some of the teens who create, learn, and showcase the process of their projects. Motivation is everywhere as different branches have exhibits from other artist, special guest speakers, and helpful staff that support them with whatever they want to accomplish. Edgar Najera says while researching the program that this is something he knew about a long time ago.

“I like to learn about photography and other ways to use media. Besides doing work at school and being on my phone there is no other places for me to do this kind of stuff. This is something I might look at,” Najera said.

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Humbolt Park Introduced the program for its student visitors in 2013. 

There are now 12 sites around Chicago with the program; Harold Washington, Richard M. Daley, Lozano, Thurgood Marshall, Humboldt Park, Albany Park, Hall, Legler, Chinatown, Woodson Regional, and Sulzer Regional.

Map of libraries

The Chicago Public Library continues to provide various content including books, movies, and computers. With the program, students will not only get to learn new techniques that they can add to their resumes, but also network with others. Parents and educators interested in scheduling a tour are asked to email youmedia@chipublib.org for tour dates. Request must be made two weeks in advanced.

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