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SFPL Wins Grant to Design Digital Learning Labs

For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Jeffers
(415) 557-4282; mjeffers@sfpl.org

November 17, 2011

San Francisco Public Library Wins Grant Competition to Design Digital Learning Labs for Young Americans That Will Serve as National Prototypes

National funders provide $100,000 in initial funding for local program

[San Francisco] – Today, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced San Francisco Public Library as one of 12 organizations in the U.S. to receive funding to create a learning lab for middle and high school students. The San Francisco Main Library Teen Center/Learning Lab will be designed to improve digital literacy and to engage young people in hands-on learning that can help them achieve the 21st Century skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, careers, and life today. 

San Francisco Public Library received $100,000 in funding from IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation to plan and design the learning lab. Friends of the San Francisco Public Library provided an additional $20,000 in funds to support the work.

“San Francisco Public Library already plays a central role in the lives of our city’s youth, as a safe, nurturing place to congregate for after school activities, find homework help and enjoy access to innovative programs and technology,” said City Librarian Luis Herrera. “With this grant we will be able to fully engage teens in the digital and online environment, plan for a Teen Center that will offer state-of-the-art exposure to digital resources, provide a framework for learning that inspires creativity and critical thinking skills, and underscore the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education in our children’s future.”

In partnership with the Bay Area Video Coalition, California Academy of Sciences and KQED, the San Francisco Public Library will begin planning for a new Teen Center/Learning Lab at the San Francisco Main Library, providing a physical resource for new technology and media literacy skills for all 42,000 middle- and high school-age youth in San Francisco. The Learning Lab—with satellite and virtual spaces at San Francisco’s branch libraries and partner organizations—will serve as a magnet for teens throughout the City and be a bridge for the digital divide in this community.

The planning process will engage numerous organizations and youth leaders in a series of workshops and pilot activities, creating a vision for participatory learning, a citywide model for collaboration, a conceptual design for a physical Teen Center, and a sustainability plan. Youth who engage in the planning process and Learning Lab programs will learn how to: select and use resources in new ways as sources for creative media projects; be better consumers and evaluators of digital content; use technology and media production tools; share and license work produced in the Creative Commons; and tell stories that support and celebrate local culture and diversity. The goal is also to better prepare San Francisco’s youth for the technology job market of the future.

The project is supported through a unique partnership among four San Francisco Bay Area organizations, San Francisco Public Library, the Bay Area Video Coalition, California Academy of Sciences and KQED, which have made it a priority to enter into this long-term project and work collaboratively together on the creation of the Teen Center Learning Lab.

“This competition was announced in answer to President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort to bring American students to the forefront in science and math, to provide the workers of tomorrow with the skills they need today,” said Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Libraries and museums are part of re-envisioning learning in the 21st century; they are trusted community institutions where teens can follow their passions and imagine exciting futures.”

“Digital media are profoundly influencing young people’s lives, their behavior, their civic participation, and where and how they learn,” said Robert Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “These innovative new teen labs are designed to provide young people with engaging and diverse opportunities for learning and exploration beyond the classroom. The nation's libraries and museums play an important role in leveling the playing field by providing greater access to learning experiences that equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st Century.”

The Learning Labs Project is inspired by YOUmedia, an innovative teen learning space at the Chicago Public Library. Based on the latest research about how young people learn today, YOUmedia encourages teens to use both digital and traditional media to promote creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. The YOUmedia lab connects teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks, so they can pursue their interests more deeply. It enables them to discover new opportunities and follow their passions by not only being consumers of media, but also creators of content.

The Learning Labs Project will be administered by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), which bring critical expertise and professional networks to the effort, and will help amplify each grantees’ experiences more broadly to libraries and museums nationwide.

Applications materials for a second round of the grant competition will be available in Spring, 2012 at www.imls.gov.

PDF version of this press release with a list of all of the Digital Learning Labs

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.

About the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. The goal is to build a base of evidence about how young people learn today, in an effort to re-imagine learning in the 21st century. More information is available at www.macfound.org/education.

About the Urban Libraries Council
Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is a membership organization made up of North America's premier public library systems and the corporations supporting them. While ULC's members primarily represent urban and suburban settings, the work done by ULC is widely used by all libraries including those in rural settings. ULC strategically addresses issues important to all communities including education, workforce and economic development, public safety, environmental sustainability, health, and wellness. ULC's members are thought leaders dedicated to the continuous evolution and strengthening of libraries to meet changing community needs. As ULC celebrates its forty-year anniversary, its work focuses on helping library leaders develop and utilize skills and strategies that match the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more at www.urbanlibraries.org.

About the Association of Science-Technology Centers
The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) is a global nonprofit organization of science centers and museums committed to raising public understanding of science’s role in solving critical societal issues, and its value in igniting and nurturing the innovative spirit that people of all ages need for success in today’s world. ASTC encourages excellence and innovation in informal science learning by serving and linking its members worldwide and advancing their common goals. Founded in 1973, ASTC's nearly 600 members in 44 countries include not only science centers and museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, space centers, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children's museums, as well as companies, consultants, and other organizations that share an interest in informal science education. Visit www.astc.org to learn more about ASTC and find a science center near you.