In 2013, Memphis Public Library Director Keenon McCloy had a dream. She envisioned building a high tech lab exclusively for teens where they could learn digital skills, express themselves creatively, and gain exposure to career pathways. Fast forward to September of 2015 and the opening of CLOUD901 in the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. The 8,200 square foot space was built, open, and ready for teens to come and learn. CLOUD901 has a music studio, a video production lab, a makerspace, an art studio, a gaming area, and collaboration and homework zones. The dream of building a teen lab was complete.
You’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” And they did. Teens from all over the city came to check out CLOUD901 in those first few weeks. The staff of young creatives at the CLOUD did a great job of engaging teens in the space. The dream was starting to work.
Then Memphis Music Initiative came along with their mission of fostering and supporting high-quality music-engagement based youth development opportunities. They worked side by side with Janae Pitts-Murdock, our Teen Services Coordinator, to create some high level programs for CLOUD901 that really raised the bar. MMI brought a level of research and expertise to program planning was extremely effective. They knew the instructors had to be top notch professionals, that the curriculum had to be customized, and that the teens needed incentives. They wanted data and outcomes from these programs, and they were willing to fund it. The result was a series of phenomenal music production and leadership programs at CLOUD901. The partnership with MMI was so successful that we continued into the summer with music production camps. Thanks to MMI, the dream is really working.
Velocity, our youth leadership program, has been a huge success. A rigorous applications process identified thirteen teens from across the city to participate in the first program last fall. MMI’s program facilitator took them through a journey of self-discovery that increased their confidence and provided them with an impressive set of real world skills. Many of these students are actively involved in CLOUD901 today, providing valuable program support to our staff. A new Velocity program is scheduled to start in December, with applications due October 31.
The music production program is going strong, having recently expanded to library branches in North and South Memphis. MMI’s music instructors are passionate, knowledgeable, and inspiring. Teen are learning to record, mix, edit, produce and even perform music.
In addition to supporting transformative music and leadership programs in the Memphis Public Library System, the organization has also influenced how Library leadership approaches teen programming. MMI established evaluation systems for programs and introduced teen services staff to best practices in youth development and youth music programming. MMI connects MPLIC with other youth development organizations to leverage resources, share experiences, and maximize community impact. They have been an invaluable partner for teen services. MMI’s team truly makes the dream work.
Diane Jalfon is Executive Director of the Memphis Library Foundation. She and her husband Daniel Weickenand support a number of music and youth initiatives in Memphis. Learn more about CLOUD901 here, and find the Memphis Library Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.