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7. What We Learned

Previous to uCreate, Kelly Czarnecki, the librarian from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, had worked with the incarcerated youth at Jail North, during which the youth accessed Teen Second Life, created a MySpace page, and wrote blog posts. Yet before starting uCreate, she had concerns that accessing the Internet might be a problem, as it had been some time since the youth had accessed a computer. Could they reign in their pent up passions, staying focused and on task? Would the actual work of the program be able to compete with the flash of the digital media? In fact, this proved not to be a challenge at all and, instead, protecting their privacy became a key issue to be addressed quite frequently.

She had to deal with many of the questions explored above, such as if their screenname could include their real name, or if they could create a comic depicting why they were incarcerated. She and her colleagues were forced to ask, time and again, where should the line be drawn between personal expression & collaboration and personal safety. Upon reflection, Kelly said if she ran a similar program in the future, she would like to anticipate issues of privacy coming up more often in regards to communicating over such a public forum. She doesn’t believe everything has to be decided in advance - there should be ample opportunity for discussions with the youth about their consequences of putting certain information online - but perhaps some could be more cut and dried regarding what is okay to share online and what is best to keep within the classroom.

The skills the youth developed throughout this six week collaboration not only exposed them to skills needed for the 21st century workforce but gave them the opportunity to play with media they might be interested in pursuing as a hobby, such as creating music or reading comics. The librarians hoped that, for both those who return to the public and those who remain in the system, the youth would increasingly view the public library as a positive place for them to pursue a broader range of skills and opportunities through digital media than they might previously have imagined.