Digital Media in Community Libraries, Part 5: Media Workshops

In their research on digital media and learning, Jenkins, et al. (2006) and Ito, et al. (2008) highlight the importance of informal learning environments in the acquisition of new media skills for young people. Libraries, like schools and after-school programs (Peppler & Kafai, 2007) can provide access to media production tools and become sites where young people “hang out, mess around, and geek out” with these tools together. Along with the game based activities mentioned in a previous post, community libraries have recognized their potential to be sites that foster multiple modes of learning. Libraries have long hosted traditional literacy programs and within the ALA and its Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), game programs and other media workshops are seen as a continuation of those efforts. Skills training with digital tools can also be understood as a continuation of libraries’ role in teaching patrons information seeking skills (Tuominen, Savolainen & Talja, 2005). Media workshops in music, video, blog, podcasts and game production are also considered outreach efforts that can bring young people into the library space and introduce them to other library services like loaning books. The ALA and YALSA provide guidelines for ways librarians can utilize free software programs and platforms to create workshops and resources for young people to produce media content from blogs to short films. Many successful media programs in public libraries result from partnerships with media professionals within the local community as well as funding through local arts councils and other grant-making bodies.

Teen Tech Week

Beginning in 2005, The YALSA has sponsored annual Teen Tech Weeks and provides resources for libraries to create technology themed activities. One resource is a wiki site where librarians can share best practices and their plans for Tech Week. For 2008’s “Tune In @ Your Library” theme, Joseph Wilk created a “Getting Started Guide” for “Making Music with Teens.” The guide lists specific web-based software and freeware programs teens can use to mix audio selections found through the Freesound Project database. The YALSA also sponsored a song contest for teens to create and record their own songs. The winner was Michelle Visent, a student at Felix Varela Senior High School in Miami, FL, with her song “Library.”

“The Library: teen tech week song” on

On the wiki for the 2008 Teen Tech Week, Stephanie Iser of the Kansas City Public Library system shared her experience partnering with a local arts organization, Hip Hop Academy KC, which held showcases and workshops on hip hop elements, such as break dancing, turntablism, and rhyming.

While many Teen Tech Week activities are based around video games and consoles, library programs included digital photography workshops and video creation activities. The YALSA has run mini grant competitions in which libraries submit plans for Teen Tech Week that yield $400-$500 to support the library’s creative use of technology programs for the week. Libraries have used the funds to purchase Flip video cameras and audio editing software. The 2008 Teen Tech Week Mini Grants were made possible by Teen Tech Week 2008 Corporate Sponsor Dungeons & Dragons, a subsidiary of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Other sponsors supported the 2009 Teen Tech Week grants.

A 2009 mini grant winner was the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota. According to the wiki, the library planned to use the

“Teen Tech Week Grant a “Party Like It’s Teen Tech Week” event to celebrate creative uses of technology by and for teens. The party will be hosted by our Teen Advisory Group from whom the idea for the grant originated. The main event will be a workshop on Circuit-Bending led by Librarian Camden Tadhg, who will be trained by the Science Museum of Minnesota. In having a staff member train for this event, rather than bringing in an outside presenter, we hope to spread this knowledge throughout the Hennepin County Library system with a “train the trainer” model. Additionally, our Teen Tech Squad will work one-on-one with teens in using rich media creation software such as Scratch, GIMP, Audacity, and ArtRage. The highlight of the day will hopefully be a Circuit Bending Jam Session where we will record the teen participants making music with the instruments they create during the Circuit Bending workshop.”

Ongoing Workshops

Many libraries host workshops that do not involve digital media, with poetry and comic workshops especially prominent. Crafts such as knitting and bead work are also taught in library classes and workshops. The following are a few examples of libraries and their media workshops: The Carvers Bay Digital Arts Experience (DAE) is a collective effort of the Georgetown County Library System and the Cultural Council of Georgetown County, with funding from the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Francis P. Bunnelle Foundation. The 12-week course was designed to expose middle school students to the basic concepts and skills required to complete digitally oriented audiovisual projects. The ALA Gaming Toolkit site lists the workshops as exemplary of digital arts workshops.

As part of ALA’s Libraries, Gaming and Literacy Initiative funded by the Verizon Foundation, 10 libraries nationwide received grants to implement creative game design and gaming programs. The San Pablo Library of California’s Contra Costa County Library System received a grant to implement a music literacy program called Make Music at the San Pablo Library. According to the Library Journal blog,

“activities include: music enrichment assemblies, creative writing workshop featuring a song writing contest, musical Jeopardy, performances by local teen musicians, music composition workshop featuring hands on experimentation with music composition software, music video games like Wii Music and Rock Band, an “Iron Musician” competition, a build your own musical instrument contest, and more.”

The South Orange Public Library in South Orange, NJ hosted a 3 part poetry video workshop run by a local poet and video teacher. Funded by the Edison Media Arts Consortium, the workshops led participants through creative writing, filming and editing processes.  The library also hosted a night that featured a screening of all the videos.

The Metropolitan Library Service Agency of the Twin Cities region in Minnesota will be sponsoring video workshops as part of its “Quiet on the Set” competition this summer, in which people are invited to create short videos about local libraries.

The Pioneer Library System in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma is partnering with a local video teacher to hold videography workshops in several branches this June. The two hour workshops are meant to take small groups through pre-production, filming and editing steps. The events are part of the library system’s “Express Yourself” Summer Reading Program and are sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Additional Resource:

The book Get Connected: Tech Programs for Teens is a compilation of tech programs from YALSA and compiled by Rosemary Honnold.


Ito, Mizuko, Sonja Baumer, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Rachel Cody, Becky Herr, Heather A. Horst, Patricia G. Lange, Dilan Mahendran, Katynka Martinez, C.J. Pascoe, Dan Perkel, Laura Robinson, Christo Sims, and Lisa Tripp. (with Judd Antin, Megan Finn, Arthur Law, Annie Manion, Sarai Mitnick and Dan Schlossberg and Sarita Yardi) Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, Forthcoming.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robinson, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Building the field of digital media and learning, 1-68.

Peppler, K. A., & Kafai, Y. B. (2007). From SuperGoo to Scratch: Exploring Creative Digital Media Production in Informal Learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 32(2), 149-166.

Tuominen, K., Savolainen, R., & Talja, S. (2005). Information Literacy as a Sociotechnical Practice. The Library Quarterly, 75(3), 329-345. doi: 10.1086/497311.

“A Closer Look at the Winning Libraries”

“Videography workshops coming to area libraries”

“Teen Poetry Video Workshop”

“Video Production Workshop” Teen Tech Week Wiki

“Summary of Effort and Result for the Carvers Bay Digital Arts Experience”