Teen Learning Lab to Open in Benjamin Hooks Library 

Lab will feature video production

Young, aspiring entertainers, business moguls, and video game designers may benefit from a forthcoming 8,300-square-foot teen learning lab at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

The state-of-the-art lab will offer teens everything from video production equipment and video game creation software to a performance space and an art studio.

The construction phase for the facility, which is coined Cloud901, broke ground last Wednesday. A room on the library's first floor, which will be used for a portion of the learning lab, was packed with city and county officials, library representatives, and local youth.

click to enlarge Mayor A C Wharton and a teen at the learning lab announcement - STEPHANIE WHITE
  • Stephanie White
  • Mayor A C Wharton and a teen at the learning lab announcement

Thea Wilkens-Reed, a home-schooled 11th grader, was there. An aspiring lawyer, educator, and news anchor, Wilkens-Reed said she thinks Cloud901 will be a valuable asset to youth in the community.

"It provides an outlet for us to explore our dreams and passions," said Wilkens-Reed, president of the library's Teen Advisory Council. "This lab is extremely important to the youth because it will be a safe environment where local teens can have free access to the latest top-of-the-line technology in one location, here in the heart of Memphis."

Projected to cost around $2 million, more than $1.5 million has already been raised through private donations.

The first portion of the center will be located in a designated area on the library's ground floor. One corner of the room will feature a video production lab, where teens can shoot and/or edit commercials, interviews, films, and music videos. There will be a sound mixing lab and sound isolation booths in another corner, where aspiring artists and audio engineers can record and mix music.

A technology gallery, projection screen, and brainstorming center are some of the other resources that will be offered on the learning lab's first floor. A staircase in the middle of the ground floor will lead teens to the lab's second floor, where additional amenities will be available.

"We are looking forward to creating a community of innovators who are on the cutting edge of technology," said Janae Pitts-Murdock, teen services coordinator for the Memphis Public Library. "We believe that through this learning center, we're able to develop the types of skills that teens will need to be successful in their future. We want them to have a learning space where they're able to pursue their passions, explore their interests, [and] career paths. We want to make a substantive and visible impact on the future prosperity and productivity of youth in Memphis."

One area of the lab's second floor will offer an art studio where teens can draw, color, and paint. And "creation stations" will allow for clothing design and creating layouts for publications.

There will also be a gaming zone for aspiring video game designers. They'll be able to learn game coding and technology, utilize game-creation software, and, of course, play video games.

And a performance stage will be used to help teens develop oratorical skills, perform music they recorded in the lab's sound booths, and recite poems or speeches in front of an audience. The area in front of the stage will hold an audience of about 100 people.

"This is the beginning of something wonderful," said Keenon McCloy, executive director of the Memphis Public Library. "We hear so much about teens in the community. The library is really one of the places that levels the playing field and reduces or eliminates barriers to access."


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