Studio conceptual drawingsThis post is part of a series where the YALSAblog takes a closer look at Learning Lab grantees from museums and libraries to learn how they engage middle and high school youth in mentor-led, interest-based, youth-centered, collaborative learning using digital and traditional media.” To read more about the context of the Learning Labs, visit the first post in the series here.

Today we will read about a Learning Lab with the Nashville Public Library, TN ( from Tari Hughes, President of the Nashville Public Library Foundation,, and Elyse Adler, Associate Director for Community Engagement at the Nashville Public Library,

KC: If you have named your Learning Lab, can you share what you are calling it?
TH/EA: The Studio (and then the location: The Studio @ Main, the Studio @ Green Hills, the Studio @ Southeast, etc.)

KC: What is the target age for your Learning Lab?
TH/EA: Primarily high school, but some locations with large middle-school audiences will also target middle-schoolers.

KC: What makes your Learning Lab unique?
TH/EA: Two things: first, Nashville Public Library will incorporate the learning lab philosophy across all of its youth services. Second, NPL already has a built-in connection to the school system through our Limitless Libraries program, so we will be able to maximize our audience through this connection.

KC: What theoretical framework are you applying to help inform the design and activities in the space? How, if at all, does Connected Learning play a role?
TH/EA: The overall concept, inspired by research by Mizuko Ito, is to create a space where teens can identify their interests and then pursue them in more depth with the help of mentors. The Studio is related to Connected Learning in that it will be the place where the teen’s social sphere, school/formal education, and personal interests overlap.

KC: At the heart of most learning labs is the concept of community. How do you anticipate your Learning Lab creating community where it didn’t previously exist in the same way before?
TH/EA: Because we have such strong relationships with local schools and after-school programs, we will be able to broaden our reach outside the library to meet teens where they are. This will allow us to create inviting environments and will encourage regular attendance.

KC: What advice are you taking into consideration in approaching this project-either from libraries/other organizations who have completed or are in the process of similar projects, your own experience, or otherwise?
TH/EA: We are seeking advice from a wide variety of partners. Specifically, we are working with a number of local youth service agencies who are already implementing parts of this philosophy in their own organizations. We also seek teen input in all parts of the planning process.

Studio conceptual drawings 2KC: What components will make your Learning Lab a Learning Lab?
1. The overarching philosophy
2. Mentors
3. Equipment and software
4. Teen participation
5. Partners

KC: What types of activities and/or technology do you anticipate being a part of your Learning Lab?

1. Writing/spoken word
2. Music creation
3. Gaming creation
4. Makers Space

KC: What are your plans to keep the Learning Lab dynamic, fresh, and moving forward?

• Involving teens in the process of evaluating effectiveness and outcomes
• Seeking constant feedback and input from our audience
• Maintaining our relationships with the New Media Digital Learning professors and graduate students at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education to stay abreast of the latest thinking in the way teens learn

KC: For libraries or similar organizations that haven’t received funding to build their dream Learning Lab, what suggestions do you have where they can start to get ideas or create a similar experience?
You can start incorporating the Learning Labs philosophy (interest-driven activities supported by mentors) without any funding at all.

About Kelly Czarnecki

Kelly Czarnecki is a Teen Librarian at ImaginOn with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. She is a member of the YALSA blog advisory board.

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