YOUmedia Chicago is an innovative, 21st century teen digital learning space at 23 Chicago Public Library locations. With an emphasis on digital media and the maker movement, teens engage in projects across a variety of core content areas including graphic design, photography, video, music, 2D/3D design, STEM and hands-on making. YOUmedia connects young adults, books, media, mentors and institutions throughout Chicago in dynamic spaces 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 Humboldt Park. In 2014, YOUmedia high school sites opened across the city at Albany Park, Back of the Yards, Hall, Legler Regional, Sulzer Regional and Woodson Regional. The Chinatown site opened in 2015, and the Chicago Bee and Kelly sites opened in 2018. In 2019, YOUmedia sites opened at Austin, Douglass, Independence, Jefferson Park, Little Italy, Northtown, West Loop and Whitney M. Young, Jr.. In 2020, a YOUmedia site opened at Edgewater, bringing the total to 23 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.

Ongoing research takes place at YOUmedia for the purpose of program development and evaluation. The Consortium on Chicago School Research released its three-year report, Teens, Digital Media and the Chicago Public Library, on YOUmedia in May 2013.

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 is currently supported by BMO Harris Bank, Allstate, the James and Madeleine McMullan Family Foundation, The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust, Comcast, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, the Oppenheimer Family Foundation and other generous donors to the Chicago Public Library Foundation.


Tours and field trips at Harold Washington Library Center are currently unavailable.

Please check out the YOUmedia Network prior to contacting staff as it answers many questions about space design and the philosophy of connected learning.

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