Engaging Teens at the Library

Did you hear the good news? One of the groups the Memphis Public Library plans to target are teenagers. A new room, the Teen Learning Lab, is being discussed to better service kids ages 12 and up. The aim is to entice adolescent readers to become more engaged with books and technology at the library. You can read more here.

The learning lab, which is projected to cost $1.5 million, is currently in the fund-raising stage. (NOTE: As of early April, $1.1 million in pledges and gifts have been raised.)

Memphis Flyer writer Leonard Gill sat down with Luis Herrera, city librarian with the San Francisco Public Library and the 2012 recipient of the Librarian of the Year award from Library Journal.

Keenon McCloy, director of the Memphis Public Library, says she brought Herrera to Memphis because, "Luis was the person we needed to hear from about teen services. The San Franscisco Public Library is opening its own digital learning lab for teens. Memphis is working to raise funds for such a lab here at the Central Library. So this was an ideal time to bring Luis to talk about what's working for San Fransisco, what their plans are."

The learning lab will be a place of traditional and nontraditional ways of learning, a space where teens can also express themselves. Here are a few more details from the Flyer interview:

San Fransisco has a teen learning lab planned for it's main branch. Memphis now has too. And other cities already have them. Why this uptick in teen services?

It's a different world now. Teen services are designed to engage young people — our future leaders, the future advocates for libraries. But think of the way you or I learned in a traditional classroom setting. Learning is now much more interactive, much more experiential. Youngsters don’t want to be spoon-fed. They want to create their own learning experience. Libraries are perfect for that.

What are your impressions of the plans for Memphis?
Memphis is doing good stuff. The strategic plan calls for access to technologies. But I also talked today about taking a more proactive approach to engaging youngsters — “bringing it.” That means they have to be the ones telling us what they want. The success we’ve had in San Francisco is because the youth have felt they fully “own” it. We call it “connected learning”: anything that happens outside the traditional school environment.

You want to have what young people are interested in, not what we assume they should be learning. It’s almost peer-to-peer learning. Like Memphis, in San Francisco we’ll have a video and audio lab. Youngsters will learn how to use new media. It will be hands-on. That’s key: ownership, the “buy-in.” It’s going to be their space. They tell us what’s going to work and what isn’t.

To read the full article at the Flyer, go here.


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