Professor crafts teenage media space for Chicago library
Published: Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 17:08
The smooth melodies coming from the keyboard are suddenly interrupted by the sounds of tires screeching. The teenager, sitting on a plush couch, leans his whole body to the right as he vigorously pushes the buttons on his video game controller to avoid crashing his car.
These students, and many others like them, are hanging out on the ground floor of the Harold Washington Library in a space that was formerly a storage room. The 5,500 sqft room received a major makeover and is now home to "YOUmedia – a Digital Library Space for Teens."
YOUmedia is the brainchild of DePaul's very own Dr. Nichole Pinkard, visiting associate professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media.
Pinkard earned a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, an M.S. in Computer Science from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University. Chicago Public Radio named her one of Chicago's Global Visionaries.
"Jobs in journalism, entertainment, science, education, medicine, and business — they're all starting to depend on interactive media. How will children from poor communities be able to compete in the future? I decided to find a solution to that potentially huge problem — and started the Digital Youth Network," Pinkard said.
Digital Youth Network was developed after Pinkard received a five-year, $2.275 million grant by the MacArthur Foundation to study how digital media effects literacy. The MacArthur Foundation is one of the nation's largest independent foundations that support a variety of causes, one of which is to understand how technology affects children and society.
In the new library area, students have the chance to work hands-on with graphic design tools and music recording equipment. In addition, the library has laptops, video cameras, and gaming consoles available for student use.
The library also offers a variety of workshops taught by professional mentors — The most popular being the gaming podcast.
The Lyricist Loft on Wednesday evenings is by far their most popular program. What started as an open mic night for poets has evolved into a place where singers, dancers, and rappers can showcase their talent.
YOUmedia was designed to foster the relationship between teenagers, media, books, mentors, and institutions throughout the city. While circulation of teen literature in the library has jumped nearly 700 percent since the new space opened, the technology seems to dominate the students' attention on site.
Attendance at the center includes students from all over the city.
"Most of the students come from Muchin (College Prep) and Jones (College Prep), but we see a lot of students from Kenwood (Academy) and Walter Payton (College Prep)," said Matt Jensen, cyber navigator at the YOUmedia center.
Jensen said any teenager with a Chicago Public Library card and a high school ID card may use the center and check out media equipment. There is no cost to check out the equipment.
"The students here this afternoon are all French foreign exchange students," Jensen said.
The library has seen such success with YOUmedia that they plan to replicate the program city-wide.
"The interest is there. This place just provides students with access (to the technology)," Jensen said.