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The Urban Libraries Council and the Association of Science-Technology Centers Selected for Teen Learning Labs Project

April 8, 2011


IMLS Press Contacts
Natasha Marstiller,
Mamie Bittner,

MacArthur Press Contact
Jen Humke,

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation are pleased to announce that they will support a partnership between the Urban Libraries Council and the Association of Science-Technology Centers to manage the Learning Labs Project. Together they will commit $4 million to support knowledge sharing activities for museums and libraries nationwide, a framework for measuring outcomes, and grants to create up to 30 new Learning Labs.

The Learning Labs project was first announced in September 2010, in answer to President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, which called on public and private sector partners to work together to improve America’s students’ participation and performance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The MacArthur Foundation and IMLS pledged to work together to create up to 30 new Learning Labs in libraries and museums for teens using the inspiration of the YOUmedia model at the Harold Washington Library Center of the Chicago Public Library, as well as the innovative experimentation spaces found in museums and science centers across the country. This exciting Learning Labs project builds on current research on how teens learn through new media and on the national work being conducted on 21st century skills and the needs of the new workforce in America.

"The Urban Libraries Council and the Association of Science-Technology Centers bring deep knowledge of the library and museum fields and have the capacity to make this project a success, said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. "Libraries and museums provide powerful, out-of-school learning experiences and this project will use recent research to seed innovative learning strategies and create an expanded, and national, community of practice."

"Digital technologies are bringing fundamental changes to how young people learn, play, socialize and participate civically," said Julia Stasch, Vice President of U.S. Programs at MacArthur. "And, although traditional literacies – such as reading, writing, science and math – are more necessary than ever, in the new environment, young people are mastering these competencies in new ways, and in surprising places. These YOUmedia-like labs will be designed to engage young people in learning through the use of digital media, building on their interests and connecting them to resources and peers to do so."

The cooperating partners will be responsible for supporting a network of Learning Labs that will use best practice principles, based on research and evidence in the field of youth digital learning, to engage youth in 21st century skills and effective STEM education. The Labs will be spaces for experimentation where young people explore traditional and digital media and use hands-on, interest-based learning to strengthen their creativity and critical thinking skills. Specifically, the partners will administer a grant competition to support up to 30 Learning Labs in libraries and museums; provide technical assistance to applicants and awardees; facilitate communication among the network of lab sites; convene grantees; create and maintain an online toolkit of resources; and develop an evaluation framework identifying program outcomes and disseminate the results.

Request for Proposals (RFP) for Learning Labs Applicants
In late May 2011, an RFP for "Learning Lab Applications" for eligible library and museum applicants will be issued, with a deadline of late July 2011 for grants of up to $100,000 for each Learning Lab. Awards will be announced by IMLS in October/November 2011. This will be the first of two grant rounds, with the second deadline to occur in April/May 2012. (Note: dates subject to change.)

For More Information
Frequently Asked Questions about the Learning Labs Project.
Information on the MacArthur Foundation/IMLS Partnership.

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

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 at

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

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 to learn more about ASTC and to find a science center near you.

Learning Labs