For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development


Institute of Museum and Library Services and the John. D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provide $99,888 in initial funding for program

Philadelphia, PA, November 17 – Today, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the Free Library of Philadelphia as one of 12 organizations in the United States selected to receive funding to create a learning lab for middle and high school students. The Free Library’s learning lab will be designed to improve digital literacy and to engage young people in hands-on learning. These labs will help youth gain the 21st Century skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, careers, and life today.

The Free Library received $99,888 in funding from IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation to plan and design the learning lab. The Free Library of Philadelphia has pledged nearly $40,000 in staff time to support the work.

“As the Free Library of the 21st Century, we’re so thrilled to have been awarded this grant which will allow us to continue to meet the needs of our young customers in our ever-changing, technologically driven world. This new lab will complement our other digitally savvy offerings, ranging from incredible online databases, robust ebook and audiobook collections, and our neighborhood Hot Spot computer labs,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, President and Director of the Free Library.

The Free Library of Philadelphia will work with an Advisory Committee of staff members and community partner organizations to design a digital media Learning Lab at the Parkway Central Library that will provide a centrally-located, teen-specific space for digital media exploration. The Free Library has a long tradition of engaging youth in positive development practices, and the Learning Lab objectives will build upon these practices to foster specific media skills as well as problem-solving skills, teamwork, and confidence. The Library will work with consultants and teen focus groups to will explore programming related to game design, music creation, graphic design, video-making, and website development.

“This competition was announced in answer to President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort to bring American students to the forefront in science and math, to provide the workers of tomorrow with the skills they need today,” said Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Libraries and museums are part of re-envisioning learning in the 21st century; they are trusted community institutions where teens can follow their passions and imagine exciting futures.”

“Digital media are profoundly influencing young people’s lives, their behavior, their civic participation, and where and how they learn,” said Robert Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation. “These innovative new teen labs are designed to provide young people with engaging and diverse opportunities for learning and exploration beyond the classroom. The nation's libraries and museums play an important role in leveling the playing field by providing greater access to learning experiences that equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st Century.”

The Learning Labs Project is inspired by YOUmedia, an innovative teen learning space at the Chicago Public Library. Based on the latest research about how young people learn today, YOUmedia encourages teens to use both digital and traditional media to promote creativity, critical thinking, and hands-on learning. The YOUmedia lab connects teens to mentors and peers, as well as anytime, anywhere access to information through online social networks, so they can pursue their interests more deeply. It enables them to discover new opportunities and follow their passions by not only being consumers of media, but also creators of content.

The Learning Labs Project will be administered by the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) and the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), which bring critical expertise and professional networks to the effort, and will help amplify each grantees’ experiences more broadly to libraries and museums nationwide.

Applications materials for a second round of the grant competition will be available in Spring 2012 at

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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Parkway Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than 6 million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850