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Armed with a movie camera and tripod, Morgan Wable-Keene hurries to stage his next shot before the mid-day sun casts a shadow on CLP - Main's Portal Entry. He consults with Labs Mentor Molly Dickerson and teen actor Gabe Gomez on the lighting before finally calling "action!"

Morgan, a sophomore at the Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy, already has a full résumé - director, film editor, composer, producer and screen writer. He describes his latest afterschool project, a seven-minute film he developed as part of The Labs @ CLP's Scary Story Movie Challenge, as "the X-Files, with time travel instead of aliens." His goal is to expand his vision into a series of web episodes. Pittsburgh teens like Morgan and Gabe now have their own space to learn and create - on their own or with a Labs mentor.

The Labs @ CLP gives teens free access to digital equipment and software so that they can experiment in photography, graphic design, digital crafts, music production and stop-motion animation.

Libraries and other public institutions have an important role to play in providing opportunities for all young people to have access to sophisticated digital media.

The Labs use non-traditional means to fulfill traditional goals of education, specifically in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"Until now I never used Photoshop," said Gabe, a junior at Central Catholic, between film takes. "It's rare to have access to this sort of thing. I'm trying to learn as much as I can."

Morgan agrees, "For the most part teens don't have access to this type of equipment because of the cost. Thanks to The Labs I can compose music in GarageBand [software that allows users to create music or podcasts]. And since I was here learning it before it was 'cool,' I can help others when they get stuck."

Two Labs mentors, library staff who are experts in various forms of digital media and expression, lead weekly workshops at each of the four Labs spaces and are available to help teens master the equipment and keep up with the latest trends.

"Our monthly programs challenge teens to think about how they can use The Labs resources and, of course, spark their interest in areas that may be outside their comfort zones," said mentor Molly Dickerson. "Once the teens become familiar with the software, we envision that they will help drive program content."

This game-changing approach to teen services at the Library officially opened in early fall with a launch party presented by Google Pittsburgh.

Visit www.carnegielibrary.org/teens for locations, upcoming programs and partnering organizations.

>> The Labs @ CLP is made possible through funding from The Grable Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation, helping teens gain skills and supporting their interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).  

Breaking News . . .

The Library was selected from a pool of 105 applicants to receive a national grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for The Labs @ CLP.  

Digital learning lab at CLP - East Liberty.
Digital learning lab at CLP - East Liberty.
Digital learning lab at CLP - Main in Oakland.
Other digital learning labs are located at CLP - Allegheny and CLP - South Side.
Photos: www.soraccophoto.com