The Harold Washington Library in Chicago is conducting a very bold and cool experiment. YOUmedia, a Digital Library Space for Teens, was formerly a storage space that has now been converted into a digital media library for teenagers, packed chock full of laptop computers, music keyboards, recording equipment, video cameras and gaming consoles. Teenagers are encouraged to consume and produce media. Yes, you read correctly! The project sprang from research on how digital media affect kids’ literacy. It has already proven to be a success with not only young people, but librarians, educators and scholars flocking to it as well. The author states that just as schools have always pushed teens to read, educators must now teach kids how to consume media critically and, ideally, to produce it.

YOUmedia’s basic tenets were derived from Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, who in 2006 studied how teens use ‘new media’. Her team identified that most kids shifted between three stages of consumption and creation, informally dubbed ‘Hanging Out’, ‘Messing Around’ and ‘Geeking Out.’ In the first stage, the kids mostly text friends and visit sites like Facebook. In the second stage, teens begin to take an interest in the media and begin ‘messing’ with it to come up with their own creations. ‘Geeking Out’, the last stage, involves using new media intensely to the point of ignoring friends and seeking out technology experts for help. YOUmedia is designed to accommodate all three stages.

It seems like the future of neighborhood libraries is finally here and it’s loud with the sounds of music, video games and conversation everywhere. Silence is definitely out!

Source: Gregg Toppo USA Today October 10, 2011

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