Below, left to right, top to bottom:
1. Me, Rafaela, and Jessica Chaney, Teen Librarian Extraordinaire
2. Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library
3. Film accolades
4. Ralph Calhoun, Audio Lab Facilitator
5. Sewing and Woodworking
6. Children's Area - look at the cool trees!
7. The Seed Library
I picked Rafaela up from the Memphis airport and we immediately headed to the new (to me) Memphis Public Library - the Benjamin Hooks Central Library. Thank you so much to Jessica Chaney (pictured with us on the stairs) for the tour, introductions, and answering Rafaela's questions! The MPL has eighteen locations and have several building projects under way.
We spent most of our time in the dedicated teen area - Cloud 901. They actually have eleven staff members in the teen department (full and part-time) - including a librarian, professional artists (video, audio, music production, painting, sculpture, computer scientists, engineers, etc.)
Several years ago, they knew that teens were not engaged with the library. The library didn't have a lot for them. They engaged in a large community planning process in order to find out what people wanted and needed from the library. They visited the Chicago Public library and consulted with many others, CPL provided the inspiration to "do that, only bigger and better!". The dedicated teen space was one outcome; they created a lounge space for poetry slams, video/sound production areas, art spaces, robotics, woodworking and a new sewing area, an art gallery, as well as spaces to support mental health and college application processes. The Youth Council and the Staff propose and execute the programs, which are funded by Memphis Library Foundation, Friends group, and the city. Jessica said that the Foundation rarely says no - they are amazing partners! The library works with many local nonprofits, such as Indie Memphis (filmmakers), who help the teens learn the entire filmmaking process, from budgeting to editing; they have produced over 50 films, some of which have won awards. See more here! They also partner with the University of Tennessee, University of Memphis, and other educational entities to support their competitive robotics team.
Jessica Chaney gave us the tour. She is a dedicated teen librarian, but she filled us in on some of their other initiatives throughout the library, including: