Still Solid: More Teen Space Changes

A few weeks ago, I posted about the small changes we’ve made to the teen space in our library. And those small changes went a long way toward making the space more teen-friendly.

The challenge has always been that this space is part collection, part programming, and part hallway (we’re the easiest access to the Community Meeting Room). So as we looked at the small things, it got us dreaming of other things we could do.

There’s a rumor of a plan that we’ll be renovating the space in a few years (pending funding), so we didn’t want to do anything too permanent. But one easy-to-notice problem with our room was the limited space to do homework or group projects, or even to use the teen laptop comfortably. Everything was covered in books. Don’t get me wrong, books are great, and a definite service to our community. But they are only one of the services we provide.

So after some (long overdue) weeding, we rearranged the room, removing about 3 shelving units to create more open space in the center of the room (the part that doubles as a hallway) and build a counter-height desk against the wall. We put the laptop and the iPad on the counter, along with a charging station for mini-USB and lightning chargers.

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We hauled the giant memory-foam bean bag out from behind the shelf where it was tucked away, and it’s already being used half an hour later.

It’s another step in the process of developing this space. While it seems much bigger, it was in fact pretty manageable thanks to the small things we’ve done before.

We’re not just sticking to a Field of Dreams mentality here, either. We know they won’t come just because we built it. So we’re going where they already are, finding out what they want, and trying to build it into our space and programming design. We’re offering a bus stop from the middle and high schools. We’re trying new approaches, and I’m excited to see the changes the teens bring with them.

Teen Spaces: Modifying an All-Too-Solid Room

Chalkboard Table in the Teen Section

You know the problem: you want to create the most epic of teen spaces, but you’re locked into an architectural space that just wasn’t designed for it. All the walls are covered in shelving, there’s almost no plugs, bookshelf islands occupy most of the rest of the space, and everything feels very… stuck.

There’s gotta be ways around this.

And I’ll admit, since my library is in a new building, I don’t have as much trouble as others. The first library I worked at has one tiny corner dedicated to teen collection, with no seating and no space to add any. Here, we have an entire dedicated room complete with a TV, XBOX, and a study table. But the setup of the room still left it feeling like the teens and their creative drives were afterthoughts.

When I started, first thing I bought for the space was a giant beanbag. Our room is divided into teen and middle grade, and all the seating was in the teen area. Tucking that little beanbag into the middle grade nook was a small improvement, but I constantly find kids and teens curled up back there, reading just out of sight. Because it’s not actually in the teen space, I think we’ve dodged the bullet of potential… uncomfortable situations.

Middle Grade Section with return cart and bean bag

We added more shelves after that to accommodate audiobooks and graphic novels, which compartmentalized the space even more. Worse, the study table had been picked up cheap at Ikea, but was pink with the word Love scrawled across it in different languages. No one really wanted to sit at that table.

So we covered it in chalkboard contact paper.

Chalkboard Table in the Teen Section

It didn’t take the teens long to pick up the chalk markers we left out and decorate it. We added cleaning it up to the weekly list of volunteer tasks, and now it’s covered in new designs every week. We also added a bunch of charger cables for devices of all sorts.

The front of my desk is a chalkboard too, and we post upcoming programs there. They used to get overshadowed by the teens’ drawings, so I changed it up – I print small posters for each event I want to highlight and post those to the chalkboard, leaving lots of space around them for the teens to still customize it.

I’ve had more interaction changes from just these 3 changes than almost anything else I’ve done. We’re still tweaking the space, and I can’t wait to see what we come up with to make the space more teen-friendly.