The Teen Open Lab (TOL) is a program at the Urbana Free Library. It is space for teens in 6th through 12th grades to come after school and hang out, explore technology, create projects, and meet new friends. The TOL is held in the Lewis Auditorium on most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3:00 to 5:30 pm. Their hours can be found on the Urbana Free Library Calendar of Events. Several stations are regularly set up for teen use, all of which are described in detail below.
In addition to the regular stations available for teens, the Teen Open Lab puts on occasional evens such as its yearly Zombie Prom. It has also recently featured a visit from the Nobel Fowl Trio, who put on a musical program for the teens, a visit from Makerspace Urbana, who helped teens create costumes for Zombie Prom, and a visit from the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab, who helped with seasonal crafts at the lab.
The librarians serving the teens are committed to meeting teen needs. From the Teen Open Lab website: "We run a teen-guided space. It's important to us that they feel like they have ownership over it. We cross over into areas like mentoring and guidance to help them learn how to understand things like creation and games from critical and positive perspectives."
Sewing and Yarn Craft Station
The Teen Open Lab supplies materials, equipment, and support for teens who would like to sow or do yarn crafts. This includes two sewing machines, thread, and even some fabric. For crocheting, the TOL has two sets of crochet hooks of various sizes and some yarn for projects. The TOL does not currently have knitting needles, but teens can bring their own. Volunteers are available to help teens with the sewing machines and provide sewing tips. They can also help teach teens to sew. Teens are welcome to bring their own goals and projects to the lab or simply come to learn.
3D Printing Station
The TOL has a 3D printer for use by the teens. A 3D printer can be used to make plastic objects such as small models and figurines, some of which are pictured at the Heartland Maker Fest. Volunteers are available to help teens with the printer.
For more information on 3D printing in the area, see: 3D Printing in Champaign-Urbana.
Vinyl Cutting Station
The Teen Open Lab has two vinyl cutters available for teen use. These special printers can cut vinyl into stickers, cut card stock, and even draw with special markers. The machine cuts or draws outlines of images or letters. Teens are welcome to bring in their own images or find images online. The lab provides vinyl of various colors as well as card stock. Volunteers are available to help teens use these machines.
Music Recording Station
The TOL has a station devoted to music recording. This station includes a keyboard, mic, headphones, and recording equipment. A closet provides a space to record away from the noise of the lab. Details about the software and hardware in this station can be found on the Teen Open Lab website.
Video Gaming Stations
There are two Wii video gaming stations set up each week at the TOL. One uses the overhead projector to display the game on the auditorium's projector screen. Super Smash Bros. is usually played at this station. The other station consists of a television on a card, the Wii system, two guitar controls, and a drum set control. The teens usually play Rock Band at this station. Other games, including Mario Kart, are available to be played at these stations.
Graphics tablets are available for teens to draw digitally. Several teens who frequent the lab are able to help those who would like to learn to use these tablets. In addition to the graphics tablets, teens can draw on large paper with colored pencils, pens, and markers provided by the lab.
Laptops with internet access are available at the lab, as well as mice and headsets. Teens are welcome to use these laptops to do homework, browse the internet, use social media, watch YouTube videos, or play games online. Many teens use these computers to play Roblox, which is a hub where users can play a variety of games, from building games to fighting games to flight simulators. Another favorite is Minecraft, which is installed on all of the laptops. Minecraft is a sandbox game where players can build and explore. They can also visit Minecraft servers with more structured games.
There is space in the lab for teens to play tabletop games or just hang out. The lab provides Uno and Jenga, but teens are welcome to bring their own board or card games. Teens may also study in this space, although this is not a popular activity.
TOL Print Collection
A mini teen collection (be sure to check out the whole collection in the teen space on the first floor!).