Logging into libraries: Programs helps teens develop multimedia skills

Library district officials are developing a new program to get teenagers into libraries to hang out, mess around and geek out with multimedia technology.

“I’m absolutely in love with this program,” said Kim Clanton-Green, manager of the Sahara West Library and project manager for the TechArt Studio program. “We take technology and we use that as a way to connect to with teens.”

At the workshops, teenagers are given hands-on training in graphic design, video game-making, digital photography and video editing, as well as audio and DJ skills.

Participants use digital cameras, mixing boards and Mac laptops with programs like Adobe InDesign, iMovie and GarageBand.

“My favorite part was going out and making videos,” said Kobey Dean, 15, who participated in TechArt at the beginning of the school year. “I think the program’s good for people who want to work in media.” Dean said he was the oldest kid at the workshop and could see himself going back as a mentor.

The TechArt Studio program began development in November 2012 with $89,650 in grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the MacArthur Foundation. The district was one of 12 selected from a pool of 105 applicants from 33 states and one territory, library officials said.

The development process includes training, surveying teenagers on their interest, and doing test runs at multiple library branches around Las Vegas and Henderson, and at the Stupak Community Center, near Industrial Road and Sahara Avenue.

“We wanted to establish a good, strong link with the city,” said Danielle Milan, development director for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District.

Libraries have mostly focused on children and families in the past, Milan said. “We haven’t really found our niche in teen learning yet.”

Milan said she brought the idea for the project with her from Chicago, where she worked on the Urban Libraries Council.

She began noticing that a lot of teens were going to the library to hang out after school in the YOUmedia digital labs.

“Teens are a notoriously hard audience to capture, and teens really love this program,” Clanton-Green said. “We have long lists of kids signed up.”

Milan explained that libraries can be sparse in parts of the valley, and local community centers are stepping in to provide space for the project.

In addition to trained library staffers who teach the free workshops, participants will start teaching each other as they master the skills. Teens who would like to participate can sign up with the youth services manager at any participating library on a first come, first serve basis.

“We don’t want the old-school way of lecturing,” Milan said. “We want the youth involvement.”

The workshops have included up to 40 teens split into groups to work on a digital project together, such as making a video. Staffers encouraged them to teach each other throughout the three-day workshops. At the end, the teams present their final products to each other for feedback.

“This project-based learning works really well. They learn by doing, and they learn by playing with technology,” Milan said.

Examples of videos created by the teens can be viewed on a library district blog at http://ontheroadvirtually.weebly.com/teen-techart-studio.html.

“I’m not very computer-ish,” said 13-year-old Olivia Waysack. But, she said, her favorite part of TechArt Studios was learning to make videos with the cameras and iMovie.

Olivia said she ran into a childhood friend at the workshops and liked seeing the other teens’ presentations.

“It was really fun to see what they came up with,” Olivia said.

When the project resumes early next year — in January or February — the development team will create three smaller labs that will rotate locations every few weeks.

They are also hoping to involve mentors from UNLV and some of the magnet schools.

“We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of students wanting to give back to the community,” said Dr. Julian Kilker, a professor at UNLV’s journalism and media studies department.

Kilker became involved with the project early on, and he is helping to tailor surveying techniques to record demographic information and track the teens’ learning experience.

“There’s this myth about Millennials all being good at technology, but it varies considerably from person to person,” he said.

Library officials will continue to test and adapt the model for the TechArt Studio program through June. Then it becomes a matter of implementing the program permanently, which will require raising more money. The current grants only cover the cost of developing the program, Milan said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how it grows in the next six months,” Milan said. “It definitely defies the old stereotypes of libraries being quiet and reserved.”

Contact reporter Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and (702) 383-0381. Follow @WesJuhl on Twitter.