New Teen Spaces from Coast to Coast

Teens are taking center stage—literally—at new library teen spaces throughout the country. From Boston to San Francisco, these notable projects have a few things in common—teen involvement, multipurpose spaces, areas for hands-on creation, and enthusiastic repeat visitors.
Teens are taking center stage—literally—at new library teen spaces throughout the country. From Boston to San Francisco, libraries are focusing on what their teens need and achieving great responses. These notable projects have a few things in common—teen involvement, multipurpose spaces, areas for hands-on creation, and enthusiastic repeat visitors. San Antonio Public Library Teen Library at Central 6,000 square feet Opened May 2015 san antonia pl For Jennifer Velásquez, coordinator of teen services at the San Antonio Public Library, the new Teen Library at Central is a dream come true. A staff member since 1995, she’s been carving out ad hoc space for teens with her enthusiastic staff for years. The project transformed previously used staff areas to create a flexible and neutral teen space capable of meeting teens’ needs, now and into future, according to Velásquez. She and her staff worked with teens and “wore them down with pizza and ice cream” to get past expected responses to what teens really wanted. The result? Teens wanted places to do homework, hang out, work in groups, and participate in performance. The Teen Library contains a lab (currently used as a maker space but ready to evolve when needed), a studio for audio and video production, gaming space, seating areas, and a computer lab. Teen response has been positive, and Velásquez has been thrilled to see all areas being used during peak times. She has had to modify the staff schedule to accommodate more usage on evenings and weekends. san antonio pl 2 The most popular element is a section of gray seating that is in constant use, says Velásquez. The traditional statistics have increased, but she doesn’t think numbers tell the whole story, so she would like to explore how to foster and document teen engagement and ownership in programming. “Understand that teens are a sophisticated and diverse group,” Velasquez would tell others getting ready to start a new design project. “Work to get teens beyond what they think you want to hear and to get teens and designers together during the planning stage.” Finally, “Take pictures! Because at the end of the day—that’s all you might have left.” San Francisco Public Library The Mix 4,770 square feet Opened June 2015 sfpl_RITGER_The Mix_424 The seeds of The Mix were planted in 2012 when the San Francisco Public Library was awarded an IMLS Learning Lab grant. The grant funded the design of the space and stipends to the Teen Advisory Board members. These teens guided the overall look and feel of the space and even the name, according to Catherine Cormier, manager of The Mix. The purpose of The Mix was to provide a space designated for teens where there wasn’t one before. “It is the only free space of its kind exclusively for teens in the San Francisco Bay area,” says Cormier. The Mix includes a video lab, sound recording lab, flexible seating, performance area, and an interactive multitouch wall from T1Visions that allows teens to draw on an image projected onto a glass wall, plus the teen collection. Cormier describes the space as having “an open feel that is inviting yet one that provides unique spaces that serve groups and individuals equitably.” The Mix and SFPL have several community partners such as the Bay Area Video Coalition, California Academy of Sciences, Blue Bear School of Music, SEO Scholars, KQED, and more. Memorandums of understanding outline expectations on both sides and monthly breakfast meetings are held for the partners to check in with each other. sfpl_RITGER_The Mix_020 Cormier suggests that when working with partners, make sure everyone knows the mission. Also be sure to have continued support for future programming and technology needs, (which The Mix does, from the library leadership as well as their Friends groups). Boston Public Library Teen Library at Central 2,000 square feet Opened February 2015 boston pl

Photos courtesy of Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library has been undergoing an extensive renovation, which includes updating their 1971 teen space with new technology and adding a maker space and gaming areas. Designed by a team of administrators, designers, and the Teen Leadership Council, the focus was to create a space following the Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out (MIT Press, 2013) findings by Mizuko Ito and others, according to Jessi Snow, teen services team leader at Central. Teen Central includes a gaming area (featuring two 80-inch monitors), a digital lab, seating areas, and collections shelved on wheeled units that can be moved out of the way when more space is needed. The gaming area and the seating options are the two most popular features, according to Snow. The best surprise has been the sheer number of teens visiting the space and seeing young adults bring their friends back with them. So far, there has been a 45 percent jump in attendance. boston pl 2 Looking ahead, Snow plans to hire teen tech mentors to work in the creation spaces and to cultivate program ideas from and with the teens. Overall, they plan to further develop the peer-to-peer model of having teens learning from other teens in the space. For others starting a similar project, Snow would suggest getting teens involved as early in the project as possible. She feels that their participation improves the design and provides them with valuable leadership experiences. To prepare for a new space, she advises staff team building activities and brainstorming possible responses about situations that may arise after opening. Monroe County Public Library Bloomington, Indiana Ground Floor 3,880 square feet Opened March 2015 monroe county 1 Monroe County Public Library also based their design principles on the Hanging Out findings, according to Michael Hoerger, communications and marketing manager. The Ground Floor was a part of a larger renovation project and was created for teens themselves to take ownership of as they move from the “Hanging Out” to “Geeking Out” phases. Design of the space involved Kimberly Bolan and Associates and the project architect, Christine Matheu. Bolan gathered feedback from teens through focus groups, while Matheu worked with the staff to bring the community’s input to life, says Hoerger. The Ground Floor contains video games, laptops, iPads, art supplies, and board games, along with library materials popular with teens. The design team worked with staff to find functional and modular furniture that would hold collection materials and help define the space. monroe country 2 While the gaming area has been popular, the librarians have also been pleasantly surprised with the popularity of low-tech items, such as a sewing machine, button maker, and other arts and crafts materials. Their thoughts about teen programming are evolving. “We want to be ready to meet them where they are with programs we can break out at any given moment,” says Hoerger. Teen librarian Becky Fyolek is creating pop-up/ready-to-go programming. They are also looking to add more adult volunteer mentors from the community to work with teens in the space. Interested in creating your own version of the Ground Floor? “Listen to the teens and your community,” advises Hoerger. He also suggests you dream big, imagining all the possibilities, and let the consultants and designers shape those dreams into the space available. Ramsey County Library, Maplewood Maplewood, MN The Brain Box Opened August 2015 maplewood 2 Maker activities are nothing new to the Ramsey County Library. Recently they had the opportunity to trade in their scheduled maker events for a dedicated space for creation and hanging out, says teen librarian Amy Boese. By enclosing the space with a glass wall, they were able to add more furniture and equipment to make the space a teen destination for hands-on learning and collaboration. The newly formed space hasn’t been in place long, although Boese has already been surprised by how dynamic the activity has been. Though smaller in scale compared to the other projects listed here, Boese has similar goals for the future. She would like to explore and expand her mentor network and help give more teens assistance and encouragement. She also hopes to open up the space to adults on Saturday mornings, a time when teens are not often there. maplewood 1 These spaces all have a common thread beyond the audience they serve. They are making a concerted effort to turn the spaces over the teens, involving them in the design and planning process, encouraging them to suggest and plan programs, hiring them to work in the space and more. These spaces are also striving to fill the space with personnel, whether staff or volunteer, that can empower teens to take learning into their own hands and into the future.  
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This is GREAT, Wonderful and Awesome! if you have the space for all that and monies to create and supply, plus staff to supervise.

Posted : Dec 03, 2015 01:56

Barbara Roos

Here at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library (Louisiana) we are lucky enough to have 2 of our 14 branches with teen specific spaces and, thanks to a recent tax renewal, are planning to add more to existing branches. We’ve had resounding success with teens using the space throughout all hours of operation (including homeschooled groups.)

Posted : Dec 02, 2015 07:29



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