We’re proud to continue our partnership with Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and to share a new post in our series on The Labs @ CLP, a digital literacy initiative that takes makerspaces to the next level by building embedded partnerships with arts and tech organizations in Pittsburgh. This week’s post is co-authored by Corey Wittig (Digital Learning Librarian for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Teen Services and Program Manager of The Labs @ CLP, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s teen-only Learning Lab) and Angela Wiley (Labs @ CLP volunteer, University of Pittsburgh MLIS intern, and newly appointed Library Assistant and Teen Specialist at CLP-East Liberty).
For those of you who have been following the development of The Labs @ CLP you know that the program is currently offered at only three Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) locations, but that doesn’t mean we plan to stop there.
From the outset, library leadership wanted to see how this program would work at a variety of library locations, with the understanding that The Labs would, as a first priority, target low-income, underprivileged youth and engage them in informal digital learning projects. So we picked locations to act as educational laboratories and The Labs @ CLP was born.
Though we didn’t know it yet, what we were doing was fostering what we now know as Connected Learning environments. Places where teens get to explore interests new and old, tinkering and designing artifacts, engaging with artist mentors and community experts.
The Labs has been offering weekly workshops and Open Lab time at CLP-Main, CLP-Allegheny, and CLP-East Liberty since September 2012. In that time, through trial and error, and through a better understanding of the tenants of Connected Learning, we’ve tweaked our program design multiple times.
During the last few months, Teen Specialists (librarians and library assistants) at The Labs’ core locations have been asked to step up and take on the role of mentor in The Labs. While one of The Labs’ artist mentors (hired for their background in fields such as graphic design, music, and photography) have thus far led the workshops, library Teen Specialists, who have often come to the Library from a more traditional path, now help to run the workshops.
This means that the skill set of our employees is expanding along with our program offerings. As YALSA’s recently published report, “The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action,” has told us this is a necessary step toward properly serving our teen users in the 21st century.
Through this prolonged design process we’ve found what we think is the best way to expand the programming and services. These past few months we’ve designed a new element of our program that will serve all Library neighborhood locations. We’re calling it The Labs on Location (LOL).
Through The Labs on Location, one of our artist mentors will visit a different neighborhood location each week, offering programming chosen by that location’s teens and Teen Specialist from our ever-expanding cache of workshops.
We’re very excited about what LOL will mean for CLP Teen Services, our staff and users when it rolls out later this year. Angela Wiley has been central to the design of this facet of our programming. She is currently assisting Peter Wardrip, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh helping with the design of LOL, to administer and evaluate surveys and in-person interviews for all CLP Teen Specialists. This evaluation process will inform the design of LOL and offer insight into the progress we’ve already made.
My name is Angela, and I have been working with the Labs @ CLP since September 2013 as a volunteer mentor. The experience so far has helped me learn how to help build a technology rich haunted house, construct battery powered “bug bots”, play Pac Man with a squishy circuit controller, make stop motion movies…and so much more.
Through Labs on Location (LOL), workshops and tools will be available at each library location, facilitated by traveling mentors. The effort to get LOL ready for launch involved dedication from two long-time Labs @ CLP mentors that I have been lucky to learn from in the past several months.
Chris Beauregard, one of our artist mentors, can boast something I truly admire: he has visited every Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location. Beauregard went to each branch to meet teens and library staff in different Pittsburgh neighborhoods as part of a “passive” cycle of Labs on Location. The visits were opportunities to get to know the library staff, introduce teens to equipment from the Labs @ CLP, and to scout out needs and wishes that were unique to each location. He reflected on the experience:
I have the sense that it’s a rare opportunity for a Library Assistant to be given such a nomadic schedule. Actually, I would wager the average Pittsburgher does not often see as much of the city as I do. It’s with this big picture perspective that I have fully come to appreciate the intent behind LOL programming. The resources CLP has to offer the city are in many cases vital to Pittsburgh’s development…LOL programming will provide all branch locations with a level of consistency in programming and access to technology. ~Labs Mentor Chris Beauregard
Andre Costello, one of the first artist mentors to work with the Labs @ CLP, made phone calls with each location to set up visits, and to track technology skill sets among CLP’s Teen Specialists:
LOL forces us to create new programming and adapt existing programming to something that can translate system-wide. The idea of the program being available to all locations, means that all of the hard work that has been put into our key locations can overflow and nourish current teen programming operations in other parts of the city. The program can serve as a training to librarians who are less-experienced as mentors or educators. ~Labs Mentor Andre Costello
As LOL rolls out across the city of Pittsburgh, the Labs @ CLP will exist well beyond its current boundaries. Teens and staff need only bring creativity!
- Check out all the posts in our ongoing series on The Labs, starting in 2012, when the initiative was still in early planning!
- Connect with The Labs @ CLP crew online, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.