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Milwaukee Public Library promises to expand services to teens in 2022, including more makerspaces

Chuck Quirmbach
Inside the Washington Park Library in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee City Librarian Joan Johnson said a program to get Milwaukee teenagers to use library resources to help with schooling and careers is expanding in early 2022.

The Teen Connected Learning program began about five years ago. The Mitchell Street Library has a makerspace area and a community kitchen for a culinary arts program. Johnson defines a makerspace area as a room, "where people can come in and create their own content. For Mitchell Street, we focused on people who were creating audio and video content, and people who were creating graphic arts."

Johnson said the Mitchell Street Library provided equipment and software.

She said a new makerspace area at the Good Hope Library is focusing on industrial design and has a laser cutter and a 3D copy machine.

A makerspace room coming soon to the Washington Park Library will focus on information technology, including computer coding and robotics.

The city librarian said some other libraries have sewing machines to help people create content.

Johnson said planning for a new Martin Luther King Library includes hearing from the nearby community as to what they want in a makerspace. The new King branch is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023.

Johnson said efforts by Milwaukee Public Library to involve more teens also includes hiring more than 30 teen interns. She said workers in the paid positions, "help us develop programming for their peers."

Johnson said the current starting salary is $15.00 per hour and the resident incentive salary range for City of Milwaukee residents is $15.45 per hour. Applications and high school grade reports should be submitted no later than 4:45 PM on Monday, January 10, 2022.

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Chuck Quirmbach
Left to right: Milwaukee City Librarian Joan Johnson, Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Jennifer Webb, Library Services Manager at Washington Park Library discuss the Teen Connected Learning program at the Washington Park Library.

Milwaukee Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson joined the City Librarian for a tour of the Washington Park Library on Thursday. He said library programs that engage young people, "keep them off the street. That's a public safety impact," Johnson said. "We talk about making investments on the front end so that we stop some of the stuff we see on the backend, in terms of public safety and having people involved in the judicial system."

Acting Mayor Johnson also talked about his long personal use of the libraries, including a brief time when he was scared to go to the library.

“I had a Batman book I checked out, and I lost it. I thought my fine was going to be astronomical. But fortunately, they forgave it, and I got a new library card years later," Johnson said.

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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