ORGANIZATION: YOUmedia Chicago

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YOUmedia is an innovative, 21st century teen learning space housed in an an open, 5,500-square-foot space on the ground floor of the Chicago Public Library’s downtown Harold Washington Library Center.

YOUmedia was created to connect young adults, books, media, mentors, and institutions throughout the city of Chicago in one dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity.

High school age teens engaging with YOUmedia can access thousands of books, over 100 laptop and desktop computers, and a variety of media creation tools and software, all of which allow them to stretch their imaginations and their digital media skills. By working both in teams and individually, teens have an opportunity to engage in projects that promote critical thinking, creativity, and skill-building.

Teens geeking out at YOUMedia. Photo courtesy of YOUMedia

Mentors from Digital Youth Network as well as Chicago Public Library librarians lead workshops to help teens build their skills and create digital artifacts – from songs to videos to photography to blogging. Teens learn how to use a variety of technology and digital equipment, including still and video cameras, drawing tablets, and video and photo editing software. YOUmedia also provides an in-house recording studio featuring keyboards, turntables, and a mixing board.

The philosophy behind the creation of the Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia was to enable teens to be more than just consumers of digital media, but to be creators as well. Through the activities of making and doing, YOUmedia addresses two significant challenges facing urban public libraries today:

  • The shortage of authentic, engaging physical and virtual spaces for teens in public libraries; and
  • A lack of meaningful opportunities for teens to learn digital media skills while also gaining relevant new entry points into library resources.


The design of the YOUmedia space is based on the research of Professor Mizuko Ito and colleagues, Living and Learning with Digital Media (2008). This ethnographic study of more than 700 youth found that young people participate with digital media in three ways: (1) they “hang out” with friends in social spaces such as Facebook; (2) they “mess around” or tinker with digital media, making simple videos, playing online games, or posting pictures in Flickr; and (3) they “geek out” in online groups that facilitate exploration of their core interests.

All high school age teenagers are welcome, and the YOUmedia technology is available for free with a valid Chicago Public Library card.

To find out more, visit their website:  http://www.youmediachicago.org

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Adam Gertsacov is the co-founder and co-organizer of Digital Family Summit.  He wears many hats, including those of a professional clown, an author and publisher, an artist/educator, a non-profit administrator, a P.T. Barnum impersonator, a flea circus impresario, and the esteemed hat of the Clown Laureate of Greenbelt, Maryland.  

In his copious freetime, he blogs at http://www.clownlink.com and http://www.dadapalooza.com, as well as a few other places.
You can find out more about his clown work at http://www.acmeclown.com
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