Over the past several weeks The New York Public Library has been in the news – library, local, and national – because of projects and programs that have a lot to do with the way teens are served in the public library. In thinking about the recent news at NYPL, I realized that what’s been going on is a perfect example of where teen services have been, where they are now, and where they are headed. For example:
- On Saturday, March 22, NYPL hosted the 79th Books for the Teen Age celebration. This annual event is the unveiling of the library’s print publication that highlights recently published titles of interest to teen readers. Authors, librarians, interested adults, and teens get together to celebrate the launch of the latest list. Obviously, in its 79th year, Books for the Teen Age is not something new. It’s an example of the kinds of services libraries have provided to teens for the past several decades.
- Just the night before this year’s Books for the Teen Age celebration, NYPL hosted a historic event with its Game On @ The Library. 200 teens signed-up to play games at NYPL. Of course, libraries have been hosting gaming events for the past few years. What made this event so historic is that it was held in Astor Hall, the entranceway/lobby of New York Public Library’s probably most well known research facility. (The one with the lions out front.) This is a facility that has traditionally been seen and used as a staid and somewhat formal research facility. When you put 200+ teens and adults in the space to play games, staid is no longer the word to use. This event shows the library of today. One in which space is opened up to teens in order to meet their current needs and interests.
- Then there is the library of the future. NYPL is in the midst of change. The Library recently announced that two of its primary Manhattan facilities are going to close. (One will close forever and one will close while a hotel is built and the library becomes part of a hotel/library joint-use facility.) The Donnell Branch of NYPL currently houses Manhattan’s Teen Central and this space is going to no longer exist – in its current form – and will eventually be re-envisioned in new teen space that will be in that same “lions building” where the gaming night took place. This is the future of library services at NYPL, but this can also be a model of what libraries around the country want to consider as they determine how to meet the needs of the teen population. Teen Central librarian, Sara Couri, talked with teens who currently visit the library’s Manhattan Teen Central to find out what they want and need for the new space. The podcast of their answers gives a good glimpse at the library needs of teens today and in the future.
Change is not easy. Change is sometimes good and sometimes bad. However, all libraries need to constantly evolve in order to successfully serve the needs of teens – not just teens of the past, but of the current day, and the future. The recent events at NYPL can provide some food for thought about how to move from yesterday, to today, as well as look forward to tomorrow – in your library, not just in the big city of Manhattan, NY.