When I heard way back in 2013 that the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) was building a dedicated teen digital media space, I was thrilled. The city of San Francisco is the home of many technology companies, such as Twitter and Adobe, and many residents work for tech companies in the surrounding Bay Area.
But like other urban areas, a digital divide exists in San Francisco; many residents, including teens, don't have access to broadband or even basic computers at home or school.
How can San Francisco teens have a chance to work at the companies in their hometown when they don't have access to the latest and greatest technology? And how can they learn the skills they need to join the tech workforce? The new digital media space, dubbed The Mix at SFPL, gives them a head start.
A Space for Learning and Just Hanging Out
The Mix is a 4,770-square-foot space packed with high-end equipment, including a makerspace (complete with a 3D printer), a recording studio, and a video production space. The space also has shelves with new teen-focused books, such as comic books and YA fiction, with an inviting area to read, study, or just hang out.
The project was managed by the San Francisco Department of Public Works with design input from the library's Board of Advising Youth (BAY). The library plans to work with the San Francisco Unified School District to facilitate regular classroom visits and workshops. A few upcoming workshops include “Social Media Secrets,” “3D Printer Maker Lab,” and an orientation to the awesome music recording studio.
How to Support Making at Your Library
While The Mix is super cool, we need to be a bit realistic here: not every city has a $6 million budget for its library's tech space or the generous support of companies like Microsoft. But you can still support making at your library and even start a makerspace on a (much smaller) budget. Here are a few resources from TechSoup for Libraries and beyond:
- Your Library Can Support Makers Without Having a Makerspace
- Think Outside the Box When it Comes to Teen STE(A)M Programs
- Of Makerspaces and Media Labs: Tales From Two Small Libraries
- How to Make a $100 Makerspace for Your Library
- 5 Tips for Starting a Makerspace on a Budget
Images: Ginny Mies / TechSoup for Libraries