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.