Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday that his office would expand the Chicago Public Library’s (CPL) YOUmedia digital skills program by $500,000 in order to serve 25 percent more teens in 2014. The program teaches web design, digital media production, and programming.
The announcement, which was made at the first of three budget roundtables for the city, comes just a week after the online expansion of CPL’s “Teacher in the Library” homework help program; K–12 students with a CPL library card may now access online tutoring seven days a week.
Beginning next summer, CPL says will offer YOUMedia training at six new library locations, plus an additional “pop up” program that will provide resources at a new branch library in a different neighborhood each month throughout the year. At present, four CPL branches offer YOUmedia programming to kids in grades 6–8, with additional training for high schoolers at the Harold Washington Library Center. In all, more than 1,500 teens receive YOUmedia training in Chicago.
“We’re excited to expand this model into more neighborhoods as it’s been so successful in engaging teens in deep learning,” says Brian Bannon, CPL’s library commissioner, in the announcement. “Now more than ever, libraries must serve as community learning centers and connect young people to resources that support their success in school and beyond.”
Nearly half of the participants in YOUmedia’s Chicago programming are African American teenage boys, and 80 percent of participants travel on average 5 miles to access the program, according to a 2013 study of YOUmedia by the Chicago Consortium of Chicago School Research.
”Budgets are statements of values and priorities, and as we have done during the past 2 years, we will make major reforms while making major investments, especially in the lives of children,” says Emanuel in the announcement. “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 Chicago’s teens to engage technology in new ways.”