If you’re looking for a cutting-edge example of a creative digital literacy initiative in a large urban public library system, you’ve come to the right place.  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.  Don’t miss the links to previous installments in this exciting suite at the end of the post!  Enjoy ~Erinn

by Corey Wittig, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Digital Learning Librarian

[Our supporters] understand that providing a digital media lab program doesn’t mean abandoning the bread and butter of library teen services. The Labs is a new creative outlet and another way to provide our teen population with information, knowledge, and marketable skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Last Wednesday, the first floor of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland) was packed full of teens, funders and community partners—in short, all those who made The Labs @ CLP a reality.

If you haven’t guessed, they all came out to celebrate the launch of The Labs with a huge launch party sponsored by our friends and partners at Google Pittsburgh, including musical performances, a great YA-lit scavenger hunt, activities by many of our community partners and, of course, tours of The Labs space at CLP – Main.

The dynamic and innovative Teen Department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has long dabbled in digital media projects and maker crafts with film competitions, music recording programs, gaming tournaments and DIY art projects, but to commit to an ongoing program like The Labs is unprecedented. So why not throw a great big party to spread the word and excite teens around the city?

The evening began with tours of the Lab. Labs mentors Molly Dickerson and Andre Costello got teens familiar with the space, allowing them to mess around with our brand-new iMacs the Adobe Creative Suite, an Oxygen 49 Midi-Controller keyboard, some great iPad apps and the rest of our brand new equipment.

Next came some words from the people who got us to this day: Mary Frances Cooper (Director of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh), Kristen Burns (Associate Director, The Grable Foundation), Wayne Jones (Program Officer, The Heinz Endowments), and Dean Jackson (Google’s Community Affairs team). Finally, CLP’s Teen Services Coordinator and my boss, LeeAnn Anna and I spoke.

I was nervous, happy and worried because our first musical performer had not yet arrived, so I can’t tell you what I said, but I can tell you what I saw from fellow speakers and the faces in the crowd: support. At Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh we’re quite lucky to have, in Mary Frances Cooper, a director who understands the role emerging technologies and informal learning play in the development of strong teen services.

Likewise, The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, The Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation and Google Pittsburgh have made it clear, both through their vociferous representatives and financial support, that this is the right step to take to best serve teens in Pittsburgh. They understand that providing a digital media lab program doesn’t mean abandoning the bread and butter of library teen services. The Labs is a new creative outlet and another way to provide our teen population with information, knowledge, and marketable skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Next, LeeAnn Anna (Teen Services Coordinator, CLP) explained the rules of the YA literature scavenger hunt (Spoiler: the answer to the scavenger hunt was Greg Gaines, protagonist of Jesse Andrews uproarious YA novel Me & Earl & the Dying Girl) and our teen guests were off. Googlers were on-hand to help teens with clues, but only after they visited the booths of our partners. Brilliant! Luckily, our partner organizations had wonderful activities planned, so this wasn’t hard at all.

Add to this equation delicious food from local favorite Mad Mex and (eventual) musical performances by local rapper Izzy Realz and the can-you-believe-this-singer-is-in-high-school alternative rock of The Nox Boys and you’ve got a successful party.

It was a wonderful night. Two teens, picked at random from those who completed the scavenger hunt, went home with brand new iPods, and I briefly reflected on all of the ups and downs that led to the launch while taking in the energy and buzz in the library atmosphere.

How long had we at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh been waiting for this day? I’ve been Digital Learning Librarian for more than twenty months now, but talk of a YouMedia-like digital learning lab has swirled around our library system for at least four years. To have the program officially launch is, let me just say (all at once), a wonderful feeling (personally), a dream realized (institutionally) and a burden lifted (sanity-wise).

Now onto the good stuff—the program itself, providing Pittsburgh teens with the equipment, software and guidance to encourage and channel their creativity. There are still proverbial miles to go before I sleep, but this was a big step. Stay tuned as we chronicle the early days of The Labs here on the Library as Incubator project blog!

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s partnerships with the following regionally and nationally acclaimed higher education and nonprofit institutions will help transform how teens in this region and beyond learn, create, and play through digital media: Assemble, Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University’s Hear Me project, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Girls Math & Science Partnership (a program of Carnegie Science Center), HackPittsburgh, Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K., Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program, The Saturday Light Brigade, The Sprout Fund (Spark program), University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences, and Zulama. Thank you!

Want more?

Check out the other posts in this exciting series on The Labs @ CLP by guest blogger Emily Fear:

Corey Wittig, CLP’s Teen Services Digital Learning Librarian

Corey Wittig is Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Digital Learning Librarian and program manager for The Labs @ CLP—the library’s teen digital media lab initiative. Corey has worked at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh since graduating from The University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature in 2006. He spent four years in the innovative Teen Department at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland) before graduating from Pitt’s School of Information Science with a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science.  Since then, he’s worked  on designing and implementing The Labs, a system-wide network of four digital media labs, housed within four CLP locations and strategically located around the city of Pittsburgh. For his work designing The Labs, Corey was named an innovator and Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2012.

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