We all could use a little more positivity in our lives, and the Burbank Public Library is delivering it, with the help of local teens.
The library launched the first episode of “QuaranTEEN,” a web series that shares its name with a summer program designed to teach media production skills to local youth, on Tuesday. The students’ writing, production, editing and anchoring skills are on full display in the video — featuring an upbeat lifestyle story and a chat with a local club owner-restaurateur — posted on the library’s YouTube page.
“I was very impressed,” said library services director Elizabeth Goldman. “I thought it was wonderful to see the final product. We had to really pivot our plans over the summer and came up with this idea pretty last minute. They really embraced the idea of finding these positive ideas. It’s not easy to interview strangers, especially at that age, and to be on camera and learn technology. I was just very impressed with everyone that participated.”
With library locations shut down due to the pandemic, Goldman and her colleagues discussed services that could be done virtually. During that time, the director came across a national web series hosted by “The Office” star John Krasinski and found herself motivated to do a version for the Burbank community.
“It was actually inspired in part by John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News,’” Goldman said. “We thought we could focus on some of the positive things.”
The discontinuation of the Burbank Leader by the Los Angeles Times’ parent company, California Times, in April was also a factor. The newspaper resumed publication after it was acquired by Outlook Newspapers later that month.
“We thought about this when we thought the Burbank Leader was going away forever,” Goldman said. “The library wasn’t going to get in the business of being a local paper, but there is a strong affinity for information and access to information. We just thought maybe we can do something with the absence of local media and preserve some local news.”
Librarians sought many applicants, reaching out to teen programs from the local YMCA and Gain Federal Credit Union.
“We wanted to allow as many kids as possible to the program,” said supervising librarian Amanda Hogg. “We really just wanted kids who had an interest in the program and in video editing to put something together they felt they could use on a resume if they wanted.”
After a competitive selection process, nine participants entering grades 9-12 were assigned various roles and worked on the project from June 29 through Aug. 7. The students didn’t have access to the library’s Spark! Digital Media Lab, a technology learning space launched in January, but they were given all the equipment and tools to produce each episode.
“They were so good,” said supervising librarian Amanda Hogg. “They taught us how it was going to go, which was fun to see. They really took ownership of the program. It was so great. They were very motivated to get the ball.”
Under the supervision of librarian Lyndsey Silveira, who specializes in materials for teens, students met virtually once a week to brainstorm ideas and deliberate assignments. Vache Sipanian relished wearing multiple hats while working on “QuaranTEEN” and was provided with an iPad, editing software, microphone and other materials to help create the program.
“It feels so good to see that our hard work was not wasted,” said Sipanian, who aspires to become a broadcast journalist. “ … I’m very thankful for the Burbank Public Library because it’s 5-10 minutes away from me. I’ve been involved in their teen and children and summer programs since I was 4 or 5 years old.”
The ambitious first episode reports on how Burbank residents have created front-yard “zoos” consisting of inflatable and stuffed animals to entertain passersby. Young anchor Teya Jieanu also interviews Flappers Comedy Club and Restaurant owner and manager Barbara Holliday. New episodes will premiere on Tuesday and Friday over the next week.
“We had a really good response online and from our staff,” Hogg said. “We’re very pleased by it. Businesses have requested to repost interviews.”
Hogg was heartened by what she saw and impressed by the teens’ serious approach.
“In the end, it seems like they wanted to do something more professional than cute, which is great,” she said. “Teens don’t get taken seriously as perhaps they should. Like the big protests that were organized recently, those were organized by teenagers.”
“The resilience of kids always surprises me. They just jump into any new situation and are able to adapt. That’s really given us a lot of hope and optimism for the future.”
The library is also adapting to a new normal amid the novel coronavirus and is in the process of developing more programs that would allow local youth to use the digital media lab and equipment.
“We are really working on identifying ways to keep programming up, whether it’s online or in person,” she said. “When we created the space, because of limitations of the building, everything is modular, so we can do it in a large room or outside. I’m very much looking forward to developing programs in fall to keep that space active.”