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Chicago Public Library to expand adolescent digital media program

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The Chicago Public Library got the green light Tuesday to expand a digital media program for young people that Mayor Rahm Emanuel claimed has “exceeded all expectations.”

The Chicago Public Building Commission Board, which Emanuel chairs, signed off on having CPL present design and budget plans for YOUmedia centers at Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.; Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted St.; and Legler Branch Library, 115 S. Pulaski Road.

A $2 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that the city announced in February combined with CPL money earmarked for teen services will fund the new centers, according to CPL spokesman Patrick Molloy. He explained the PBC must still separately approve the YOUmedia centers’ final design layout and funding plans.

Funding from the MacArthur Foundation enabled the city to open its first YOUmedia center at Harold Washington Library in 2009. CPL then used federal stimulus cash to open three additional YOUmedia centers at branch libraries. The program’s current sites have 650 unique visitors each month. About 70 percent of those visitors are high school students and 30 percent are students in grades six through eight.

CPL’s website states YOUmedia presents a chance for students to “access thousands of books, laptops and desktop computers, and a variety of media creation tools and software, all of which allow them to stretch their imaginations and their digital media skills.” Mentors lead workshops at YOUmedia sites to teach teens new techniques for creating digital media, including songs, video, photography and podcasts.

Also at the PBC meeting Tuesday:

* The board approved a $321,000 plan to replace playground equipment at 13 Chicago parks. Commissioner Bryan Traubert, who is also President of the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners, said that the equipment upgrades are part of a larger plan to replace equipment at 300 of the city’s 500 Park District playgrounds within the next five years. 

Traubert described unsatisfactory playground equipment as a “quality of life” issue that the city has long neglected.

* Chicago-headquartered Paschen Milhouse Joint Venture III won a $10.618 million contract to build an annex at the overfilled Wildwood Magnet School at 6950 North Hiawatha Avenue.

PBC Executive Director Erin Lavin Cabonargi described the company, which frequently contracts with the city, as having a good relationship with PBC. According to Lavin Cabonargi, Paschen Milhouse was the lowest of eight bidders.