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Saint Paul Public Library Wins National Grant Competition to Design Digital Learning Lab for Youth in Saint Paul

Date: Nov 18th, 2011

SAINT PAUL - Today, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Saint Paul Public Library as one of only 12 U.S. organizations to receive funding to create specialized, digital learning labs for middle and high school students. In partnership with the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department,The library 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. 

"In order to compete for the jobs of the future, Minnesota's children will need the best education money can buy," said Senator Al Franken. "This funding will allow Saint Paul's libraries and parks to create learning labs where our kids can get the skills they need to succeed in a 21st century economy."

Saint Paul Public Library received $100,000 in funding from IMLS and the MacArthur Foundation to plan and design the learning lab. The Library, the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, and Parks and Recreation Department will provide an additional $65,000 in in-kind support.

"Saint Paul Public Library's selection for this grant is a testament to our city's dedication to our youth development," said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "Successful students are essential to a successful Saint Paul. With this grant, we'll be able to connect our youth to the technology they need to thrive in today's digital environment."

The Saint Paul Digital Learning Labs Project will enable Saint Paul Public Library and the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Department to create a comprehensive plan integrating best practices for digital engagement for youth. The project will include a learning lab as part of the Payne Maryland project, a mobile lab, and an online student network.

"We're thrilled to be included in this critical initiative because it will help us engage youth in our community in a way that inspires their creativity and piques their interest," said Kit Hadley, Director of the Saint Paul Public Library. "Through this new model of service in partnership with Parks, we'll be able to provide access to digital technology not only for creative expression, but also to help youth develop necessary workforce skills."

Throughout the planning process, the Library will develop a network of partners and advisors from the community including Twin Cities Public Television (tpt), the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota.

"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."

Programs like the Saint Paul Digital Learning Lab Project address a critical need. According to the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment, American students significantly lag behind their developed country counterparts ranking 21 out of 30 in science literacy and 25th out of 30 in math literacy.

"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 Saint Paul Digital Learning Lab Project is inspired by an innovative teen learning space at the Chicago Public Library called YOUmedia based on the latest research about how young people learn informally from digital media today. The YOUmedia lab connects young people to mentors and peers, and encourages critical thinking, creativity, and skill-building through digital media projects. It encourages them to not only be consumers of digital media but creators of digital content that can enable them to discover new opportunities and follow their passions.

The Digital Learning Lab 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 www.imls.gov.

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About the Saint Paul Public Library

For 129 years, the Saint Paul Public Library has connected people in Saint Paul with the imperative and the joy of learning through a lifetime. The Library has enriched the quality of life in the community by anticipating and responding to the community's need for information and offering free access to technology, books, movies, music, events and classes for people of all ages. The Saint Paul Public Library offers service in 12 community libraries, Central Library and the Bookmobile.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.

About the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's digital media and learning initiative aims to determine how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life. The goal is to build a base of evidence about how young people learn today, in an effort to re-imagine learning in the 21st century. More information is available atwww.macfound.org/education.

About the Urban Libraries Council

Urban Libraries Council (ULC) is a membership organization made up of North America's premier public library systems and the corporations supporting them. While ULC's members primarily represent urban and suburban settings, the work done by ULC is widely used by all libraries including those in rural settings. ULC strategically addresses issues important to all communities including education, workforce and economic development, public safety, environmental sustainability, health, and wellness. ULC's members are thought leaders dedicated to the continuous evolution and strengthening of libraries to meet changing community needs. As ULC celebrates its forty-year anniversary, its work focuses on helping library leaders develop and utilize skills and strategies that match the challenges of the 21st century. Learn more at www.urbanlibraries.org.

About the Association of Science-Technology Centers

The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) is an organization of science centers and museums dedicated to furthering public engagement with science among increasingly diverse audiences. ASTC encourages excellence and innovation in informal science learning by serving and linking its members worldwide and advancing their common goals. Through strategic alliances and global partnerships, ASTC also supports science centers and museums in proactively addressing critical societal issues, locally and globally, where understanding of and engagement with science are essential. Founded in 1973, ASTC now numbers nearly 600 members in 44 countries. Members include not only science centers and museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, and natural history and children's museums, as well as companies, consultants, and other organizations that share an interest in informal science education. Visit www.astc.org to learn more about ASTC and to find a science center near you.