When faced with the chance to build a teen section from the ground up, most teen librarians would jump at the opportunity to create the perfect teen-centric, state-of-the-art space filled with ample, comfortable seating, the latest in technology and resources, and, most importantly, teenagers. To craft such a space is practically every teen librarian’s dream, and many library professionals agree that having an innovative, separate, and distinct teen space is one of many factors linked to teens wanting to use the library more.
Most of us who work with teens in a library-setting already know that they need a place to call their very own, so why state the obvious? It seems that a new trend in library design for youth may be emerging, which focuses on a “whole youth” approach to space and service. While not necessarily a new idea, this more traditional approach creates a youth space that moves from one stage of development to the next and provides patrons from birth to young adult with a continuity of service from a team of youth librarians. In this model, the teen space is once again situated near or, in some cases, in the youth (i.e. children’s) department, and a teen librarian may spend most of the day assisting pre-teens. Yes, there will still be a dedicated space for teens, but its proximity to all things children may diminish its favor among young adults. As Kimberly Bolan (2009) so aptly states in Teen Spaces (2nd ed.), “Teenagers do not want to be associated with little kids” (p. 30).
It appears that the advances Bolan and others have advocated for and gained on behalf of teen librarians and their customers may be in danger of becoming the exception to the rule once again. Will teen services become diminished as a whole youth approach to library services and design takes root? Will teens continue to use the library once their separate space is integrated into the youth section? Only time will tell.