YOUmedia Chicago is an innovative, 21st century teen learning space at 11 Chicago Public Library locations. YOUmedia connects young adults, books, media, mentors and institutions throughout Chicago in a dynamic space designed to inspire collaboration and creativity.

Opened in 2009, YOUmedia was the first space devoted to high school teens at CPL, occupying a 5,500-square-foot space on the ground floor of CPL’s central library, Harold Washington Library Center, in downtown Chicago. In 2011, middle school YOUmedia sites opened at the Richard M. Daley, Lozano and Thurgood Marshall branches. A fourth middle school YOUmedia opened in early 2013 at the Humboldt Park Branch. During 2014, YOUmedia high school sites expanded across the city at Albany Park, Back of the Yards, Hall, Legler, Sulzer Regional and Woodson Regional to bring the total to 11 sites.

YOUmedia Philosophy

The design of the space is based on the research of Professor Mizuko Ito and colleagues, Living and Learning with Digital Media (2008). This ethnographic study of more than 700 youth found that young people participate with digital media in three ways:

  • they “hang out” with friends in social spaces such as Facebook;
  • they “mess around” or tinker with digital media, making simple videos, playing online games or posting pictures in Flickr;
  • they “geek out” in online groups that facilitate exploration of their core interests.

YOUmedia operates as a drop-in, out-of-school learning environment for teens to develop skills in digital media, STEM and making. YOUmedia applies the practice of connected learning to our programming model. We encourage participants to create rather than consume, and teens are encouraged to learn based on self-interest through intergenerational and peer collaborations. We see the library as a node on a teen’s pathway to lifelong learning, and we connect teens to other learning opportunities that will lead to skill-building as well as college and career development.

At the Harold Washington Library Center YOUmedia, we also offer project-based programs for home school students, an online teen literary magazine (YOUlit) and a gaming podcast (Library of Games). All locations host programs such as book discussions, low-tech maker crafts, recycled crafts and other projects based on teen interest.

Additional Resources

YOUmedia Supporters and Partners

YOUmedia started as a collaboration between Chicago Public Library and Digital Youth Network, with generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation through the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Boeing Chicago Game Changer Award, Motorola Solutions Foundation, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, the Pearson Foundation and the City of Chicago.

In 2006, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation launched a five-year, $50 million Digital Media and Learning Initiative to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize and participate in civic life.

YOUmedia Chicago in the News

Teens, Digital Media and the Chicago Public Library: The Consortium on Chicago School Research released its three-year report on YOUmedia in May 2013.

Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito calls YOUmedia "loud, sociable and hip -- but it's still all about the public mission of the library to serve as a point of access to culture, information and the media of the day, staffed by smart guides to knowledge and literacy." Check out her Huffington Post piece "When Youth Own the Public Education Agenda."


Staff members at the Harold Washington Library Center are available to provide tours based on their availability. We give tours between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, before the space opens to teens. Tours last approximately 45 minutes. We encourage tour participants to break for lunch and return to observe the space with students for an additional 30 minutes.

Because of travel, staffing and time constraints, we generally do not provide formal tours of our branch YOUmedia sites. The branch sites are located throughout Chicago and travel between sites by car or public transportation takes between 30 and 60 minutes.

Scheduling a Tour

Please check out the YOUmedia website prior to scheduling a tour or contacting staff as it answers many questions about space design and the philosophy of connected learning. Librarians, educators and nonprofit learning organizers interested in a tour should contact Please request tours at least two weeks in advance.


YOUmedia is a popular tour spot throughout the year. If you need to cancel your tour, please do so 48 hours in advance.