Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teen Spaces in Libraries

In my Young Adult Services and Programs class, we recently spoke about teen spaces in libraries. I got to thinking about how controversial it can be. Should we give them their own room, or at least give them some cooler furniture? Should food or beverages be allowed? What does the budget allow? How can we make it so the teen space is clearly designated for them?

In a perfect world, every library would have a space just for teens. It would be comfy, with colorful walls and funky lighting, posters and artwork, and of course, lots of materials that would interest them. This space would be separated from the rest of the library, and everyone would see the importance of and need for this use of space. But we don't live in a perfect world, and in many libraries the only "space" teens have are on the shelves of the young adult section.

In the library where I work, there's no teen room, just a section right next to the quiet reading room (not ideal). There are a few tables and chairs, and a few books on self-help reader's advisory. My hometown's library is a little better, with some more comfortable seating and a space blocked off by the shelves of the teen section. It's slightly cozier. But it's still not a real great "hang out" space, which I think is important. We want teens to spend time in the library. If they have no place to do this, then why would they stay?

What are all your thoughts on this? Do you have an awesome teen room in your local library? (One person in my class described one where the teens themselves helped design it—complete with a glass garage-type door that can be closed and opened whenever they want to play music inside. How incredibly awesome, not to mention functional.) Does your library even have a space for teens, or do you think there isn't a need for one?


  1. VOYA magazine has a "YA Spaces of your Dreams" feature every issue. It's drool-worthy. My entire library is a "Teen-space" since I'm at a high-school ;)

  2. The Teen Section at my library is a converted storage closet. It's a small space to begin with and has it's few bookcases full of current popular YA/teen fiction. There is only enough space in there for one, maybe two, people.

    There is a much larger children section that takes up maybe 1/4 of the library, which in a way, I don't think is fair. Children love to read instinctively almost and so much is directed at them, when there is very little directed at teens. And I think that's where the most emphasis should be.

  3. In my hometown library there's just a small young-adult section next to the regular fiction books (but the selection isn't too bad). The children's books have their own corner of the library that's bright and colorful and usually decorated with artwork the kids did during craft time or did in school.

    In the town I live in now the teen section is horrible. The reference desk is right in front of the teen section (most teens like to talk so this is not ideal) and the selection of books is not very good. The library rarely gets new teen releases and many of the books they have show the wear and tear.

    But now that I think about it my current local library isn't that great overall. Most of the books I get from the library I've requested from another town's library.

  4. I am not a fan of my city's public library-a lot seems to be outdated. There is also very little selection in the adult fiction section. However, their teen area is massive. There are special chairs and computers for the teens, and a couple small reading rooms away from the bookshelves. The manga and graphic novels are in the same area. It is a wonderful place and when i do go into the library, for reading or research, I usually head near that area. :) I like the environment and I still look like a teen, so it works for me. :)

  5. Annette—I knew about that column, but I haven't been able to read it yet. I don't get VOYA, though I hope someday I will!

    Jenn—there tends to be a lot more emphasis in libraries on children for the most part. I wish more resources and manpower were devoted to teens, too.

    Jen—selection is so important, I'm sorry your library doesn't have a good one. :( And I agree, the teen section should not be near somewhere where people want quiet. Teens like to talk and socialize, it would seem like common sense!

    Allie—that sounds great! I wish my library had a big space like that.

  6. I don't think our library has much of a teen space to be honest..I think much of the library furniture is outdated anyways...or else I just don't like it. :P

    I think a teen room would be an excellent often I think teens feel out of place in a library because it's "old" people and they are always been shushed. Giving them a little space that feels modern and young and allowing them to socialize a bit while they browse could really help the teen programs. I would have LOVED something like that. Could have found other bookish teens!

  7. Jamie, that is EXACTLY right. We want teens to WANT to come hang out at the library, and this is one of the most effective ways of succeeding—by giving them their own place to go.

  8. Teenagers don't have a room to themselves in our library, just a section between two sets of shelves, a table and some chairs. I don't often see many people in there, though there are always big groups of teenagers hanging outside the library.

  9. Great post... I had the chance to work in a highschool last year as an extention of my usual day good. Of course I spent most of my time in the library!! The two librarian's there were amazing. I found that they were devoting a large portion of their budget to purchasing new YA fiction titles and even graphic novels (which aren't really my cup of tea) but I defintely noticed it worked and got a lot of students into the library and checking out books! I agree that if teens have a space that makes them feel comfortable, then they are much more likely to spend time in their local library.

  10. The library I work at has a small teen room. We have some comfy chairs and some colourful bar stools. I think we have a pretty good selection of YA materials and graphic novels in there, but I wish we had a better table and more space for events.

    have you read the book by Kimberly Bolan? Teen Spaces: The Step-by-Step Library Makeover. Chicago: American Library Association, 2009.

    I thought it was pretty great, but I don't have the budget to add much to my branch right now.

  11. Steph, we read some chapters of her book in my class. It is really helpful. As for budget, that's the main problem isn't it? There isn't a whole lot of money anyway, and not a lot of boards or towns will approve the funds for something like a teen space.

  12. Thanks readersGUYde! Graphic novels are a huge draw now, especially for more reluctant readers. I actually really like them; they often provide an incredibly rich story that are dependent on the visuals. Lots of subtle things can go on in illustrations that add dimensions not possible otherwise. That's great that you were able to spend time in a high school library like that!

    Katie, I think it's kind of funny that they hang out outside the library. Do you think it's because they don't feel comfortable inside? It's too bad there's only a few shelves for teens there.

  13. Our teen space has been a hard fought evolution. We started out with just some shelves in the corner near the adult reference section. Over the years it evolved to be it's own section complete with teen only computers, tables, and chairs, but you still had no idea you were in the "Teen Zone" because our furniture and shelves matched the rest of the library. Last year we got a grant to redo our space and we're finally seeing progress! The teens helped us choose the new furniture and color scheme. We're also getting more computers and painting the walls so that the teen area really stands out as it's own space, different from the main library (if still very much just one end of the main building). We're still super close to the adult area with no sound barrier. However, our library is getting ready to do a major remodel and in the new space we're fighting hard for a closed off room away from quiet areas so our teens can be, well, teens.

    It's a tough fight - it's an important space but because our demographic is in school for over half of our normal hours of operation we run into the "Why waste money on people who aren't using it?" issue. We end up "chasing off" adults from our comfy chairs and big tables all the time. Adults tend to steer clear when there are a lot of teens hanging out and we've created a pretty teen friendly hang out space - though mostly, our teens gather around the computers and we still use the main library for all of our programs. it's a balancing act, but it works okay in our community.

  14. Megan—that's so exciting you are redoing your library! And congrats on getting that grant to fix up the teen space. I'm planning on most likely writing lots of grants if I ever get to be a teen librarian. I'll probably need it. Good luck with getting that space.


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