Future of libraries: No more shushing teens at the library | SierraSun.com

Future of libraries: No more shushing teens at the library

Pam McAdoo
Special to the Sun

In one area, a group of teens is making a video to post on YouTube; another cluster is playing hangman and video games; yet another handful of teens is recording music; and a fourth group blocks out a performance of an original play they penned themselves.

Where are we? At The Mix, a bright, noisy, teen-centric new space at the San Francisco Public Library's Larkin Street Branch, which has just opened after a three-year makeover.

The design of The Mix is based on the results of a 2008 ethnographic research project by cultural anthropologist Mizuko Ito and colleagues, which focused on teens and technology.

A Teen Advisory Board provided additional input on the remodel of a dark, forgotten corner of the library into a colorful and vibrant space which now throbs with activity and ideas, and has anything but the please-keep-your-voices-down atmosphere of traditional libraries.

The Mix offers teens the use of smart screens, iPads, a 3D printer, and equipment for recording music and creating YouTube videos.

The ambiance is loud, sociable, and hip, while providing access to culture, information, and the latest in media.

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Knowledgeable, trained staff members are available to guide teen users in their explorations.

The Mix followed the lead of YOUmedia at Chicago's public library system, which operates as a learning environment outside of school.

At YOUmedia, youth ages 13 to 18 develop skills in digital media, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and creating, and are encouraged to follow their passions through intergenerational and peer collaborations.

Since YOUmedia opened in 2009 with programs as well as equipment, young adult book circulation has increased 700 percent.

Chicago City Librarian Luis Herrera believes that targeting specific age ranges and creating a community feel are the keys to transforming traditional libraries into active community magnets.

YOUmedia has accomplished its mission of attracting legions of teens.

"They are the future of the library," noted Herrera of teen groups. "This is the generation that is going to be not only tech-savvy, but information-savvy … The teens are the ones telling us why libraries are still relevant."

Pam McAdoo is a board member of the Friends of the Truckee Library. Visit truckeefol.org to learn more.

Editor’s note

This is the 11th in a series of articles exploring the varied ways that public libraries are continuing to reinvent their services and facilities in order to respond to technological innovation and the specific needs and populations of the communities they serve.

Click here to read part one of the series.

Click here to read part two of the series.

Click here to read part three of the series.

Click here to read part four of the series.

Click here to read part five of the series.

Click here to read part six of the series.

Click here to read part seven of the series.

Click here to read part eight of the series.

Click here to read part nine of the series.

Click here to read part 10 of the series.