Instant Messages

Posted by Linda W. Braun

Recently I had the chance to go on a tour of the Seattle Public Library. I’d heard lots about the new library building and was really excited to see the architecture and the teen space. Walking up to the building one can’t help but notice the design of the facility and how it stands out on the city street. The instant message when viewing the building from the outside is “Well, this is quite something.”

I arrived at the library a little before the tour started and checked out the first floor where there is a very large sunny (yes sunny in Seattle) children’s room. The instant message when I saw the children’s room was, “Well, children are definitely an important constituency in this community.”

We met our tour guide and moved to the elevators as we found out the tour started at the top of the building. As we walked to the elevators I noticed in front of me a desk that said “Starbucks Teen Center.” As we moved closer I saw to the left of the Center comfortable furniture filled with people lounging – all adults. The Teen Center, I discovered, is a small horizontally designed space that does not include the comfortable furniture people were lounging in. The Teen Center is in fact much smaller than the children’s room. (Actually it ends up that by the end of the tour I discovered the space is much smaller than many areas of the library.)

I’ve been thinking about the instant message that the Teen Center sends to teens in the community. The fact that there is any space at all definitely sends a message that we know you exist. But, the fact that the space is small, somewhat dark, and nowhere near the size of other areas of the library sends a message that we know about you but don’t really need to think about you (or support you) too much.

Needless to say I was disappointed when I saw the teen space. I did have a renewed sense of the need to get the word out about service to teens and particulary the importance of designing space that supports teen needs and shows teens are a valued part of the community. The Professional Development Center section of the YALSA Website has a topic guide on space. For those interested in learning more about how to support teens through space it’s worth looking at.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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2 Comments

  1. I am sorry that this post is so negative about the Seattle Public Library Teen Center. I encourage Teen Services Librarians to come check it out -it’s a great space, almost 4,000 square feet in size. It was featured in VOYA as a “YA Space of Your Dreams”
    Come on by!

  2. Congrats on the VOYA article – it’s archived online for anyone who wants to see it, at VOYA DOT COM

    Your article states that
    the new Seattle Public library is 363000 square feet. If only 3900 of those feet are dedicated to teens, that’s just about than 1% of the total space! Even if we take away for infrastructure, office space, etc, and estimate say, 130,000 square feet of usable space, that’d still only 3% of the total space.

    According to the US Census website, in 2000, Seattle had 563,374 residents, with 53,073 citizens between the ages of 10 and 19 (the way the census breaks it down is 10-14 and 15-19. YALSA serves ages 12-18 though – a 6 year age span, not 8. I’m not so good at math *hey, I’m a librarian because I am only good at Dewey Decimal numbers!), but I divided by 8 and multipled by 6 and got 39,804 – or, 7.06% of the total population was YA in 2000. So wouldn’t 7% of the space be more reasonable than 1%?

    Sorry to pick on you Seattle. But unfortunately, you were probably entitled to more that you got. Although, it looks like the childrens room only got 4% – unless you go with the 130,000 square feet of usable sapce idea, in which case they got about 11% – for aboumnd 63,000 people, or 11% of the population.

    I visited a library recently where they put one of those little glass box YA rooms in a corner on the second floor. It was about 2% of the size of the enormous new children’s room.

    The problem is, YAs are so underserved that we think it’s great when we get thrown a bone. We need to do a better job advocating for if not equal, at least propotional resources: staff, space, collections, and equipment.

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