Urban Libraries Council Recognizes San Francisco Public Library for Library Innovation
SFPL’s Teen-led Web Series, STEM Challenge Yo’Self, Receives Honorable Mention for Elevating the Value of the Library as a Community Institution
SAN FRANCISCO, December 11, 2020 – The Urban Libraries Council announced San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) as an Innovations Initiative Honorable Mention award winner during the 2020 ULC Innovations Celebration held virtually on December 11. The annual Innovations award program recognizes and raises the visibility of cutting-edge programs, strategies, tools, techniques and ideas from ULC’s member library systems across the U.S. and Canada.
SFPL’s teen-led web series, STEM Challenge Yo’Self, was selected by a panel of expert judges from 260 submissions in 10 categories that showcase creative thinking and imaginative applications of library resources. The Library won in the category of Education – Birth thru Teens, with award winners being recognized for their level of ingenuity, the outcomes achieved and the ability for other libraries to adapt and implement their work.
Developed for budding scientists and engineers by teens in the summer Youth Engaged in Library Learning (YELL) program, the web series featured an array of creative scientific experiments using common household items from the safety of a screen. According to Youth Services Manager Christy Estrovitz, “In May we had to unplan 1,000 learning events due to shelter-in-place. We quickly rebuilt our program with weekly STEM programs online. A tiny group of Youth Librarians partnered to videotape the nine-part STEM Challenge Yo’Self series within three weeks. The teens also created 29 original challenges as part of their leadership cohort.” Youth Development Coordinator and program manager Ileana Pulu credits the "teens' ability to go above and beyond in a shared learning environment, learn workforce development pathways and give back to their communities."
Easily accessible on YouTube and Instagram, STEM Challenge Yo’Self quickly earned loyal followers with more than 10,000 views and counting. Program partners such as the YMCA incorporated it into their weekly offerings to provide youth with active learning experiences. This past fall, the series was reprised for a monthlong Teen TakeOver event in conjunction with the Bay Area Science Festival.
“SFPL’s Youth Service Library staff demonstrated their ingenuity and passion for public service during this pandemic,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert. “Instead of being limited by distance and technology, our staff and a dedicated group of teens rose to the occasion and created an exceptional body of work that is both creative and altruistic in spirit. Everyone gained valuable skills and insight through this experience, and we look forward to expanding on our success in the future.”
“This year’s winners have quickly taken bold moves to ensure that the library continues to serve the needs of the people in their community – especially those most vulnerable including children, stressed families, isolated seniors and struggling small businesses,” said Urban Libraries Council President and CEO Susan Benton. “In the 10th year of our Innovations Initiative, we received the most dynamic and cutting-edge submissions to date. We celebrate San Francisco Public Library for creating an initiative that will positively impact their community and serve as a model to public libraries throughout North America.”
All 2020 ULC Innovations entries can be viewed at urbanlibraries.org.
About San Francisco Public Library
San Francisco Public Library is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joys of reading for our diverse community. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center and four bookmobiles. To learn more, please visit sfpl.org and follow on Twitter @SFPublicLibrary and on Instagram @sfpubliclibrary.
About Urban Libraries Council
The Urban Libraries Council is an innovation and impact tank of North America’s leading public library systems. ULC drives cutting-edge research and strategic partnerships to elevate the power of libraries as essential, transformative institutions for the 21st-century. More than 150 urban member libraries in the U.S. and Canada rely on ULC to identify significant challenges facing today’s communities and provide new tools and techniques to help libraries achieve stronger outcomes in education, digital equity, workforce and economic development, and race and social equity.
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