It’s been a little while and we thought it might be good to check in with Niq Tognoni, Studio Coordinator for Studio NPL, to see where they are now.
How long has the space been open?
Studio NPL opened in April, 2015. They were first featured in a YOUMedia Site Spotlight on Sept. 28th 2015.
How many people support your spaces?
Studio NPL started with 4 direct employees. They have grown to employ 9 direct staff members and they are supported by about 30 Teen services staff systemwide who assist with Studio NPL space operations.
How many locations did you start with and how many do you have now?
Studio NPL now has 8 locations, and 2 mobile labs which focus on visiting schools and community centers teaching both STEM and Social Emotional Learning workshops.
Niq says, ”We worked kind of backwards. We were in the midst of planning Studio NPL through the IMLS planning grant when a private donation came in to remodel a teen center in a community branch. We ended up making that our first Studio NPL branch, then put in two more Studios a few months later as we were building new branches.” Then the MAIN, flagship location downtown opened. About two months later, thanks to a community grant, two additional branches opened. In summary, Studio NPL had six locations within the first year – which was quite a scramble. Fortunately, Niq had been at YOUmedia Chicago for almost 5 years previous, so he had a good idea of how to get the spaces up and running quickly.
Popular programs then and now.
Audio production and 3D printing were most popular at first. 3D printing remains popular but graphic design, creative writing, sewing, and simple robotics have become more popular as they’ve grown.
Studio NPL has always been committed to the mentor model, and continues to advocate for keeping paid, part time mentors on staff. Niq says “the mentor model was challenging for many library staff to wrap their heads around at first, as was the idea that STEAM programming would be coming from a fairly centralized program team (as opposed to sites creating and facilitating their own STEAM, teen programs). Now, however, the model is seen as important, successful, and we are asked to expand to other sites every year.”
What’s on the horizon?
Studio NPL recently became an official field trip partner of the public school system. Almost every 7th grade class in public school in the area will be visiting in Spring of 2020.
One of their concerns is that their main space is in the downtown area of a booming city, where travel and parking increasingly difficult to negotiate. As Studio NPL grows, it is looking to create a new flagship space in a community branch within the next 3 to 5 years in the expectation that less local teen patrons will be visiting the downtown branch.
At the moment they are at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to their next big initiative; they are considering a full-fledged Studio for all ages (children and adults included), or trying to open a Satellite location in a middle or High School (to complement the mobile lab). They’ve also been in discussions to build a physical mobile lab/bookmobile, or expand work to include an entrepreneurial center model. These are all considerations and ideas they are trying to get a grasp on as they look towards the future of library services and the Studio NPL program.