You have the support of your library management, but you have no time, money, or space. How can you finally creating that teen space/center/area/room that you have been dreaming about?
Well it won’t be easy. As a matter of fact, it will be dusty and heavy and time-consuming. But all good things are worth the effort! Once you have secured approval from your boss the planning process can begin. Review the following ideas and mix-and-match to your heart’s content!
Idea #1: Ask the folks in Circulation for more shelf space for YA books. With their approval, shift adult books (or whatever is keeping you from expanding) away from the YA collection, giving yourself space to work with. Even if you don’t need the shelf space, you can use the more spread-out shelves to hold program flyers, set up book displays, hold bookmarks, display teen art work, and more. (Or perhaps the Director will walk through one day, notice the empty-ish shelves, and want to fill them? Or better yet, build you a Teen Center!)
If the idea of empty shelves scares you, ask a maintenance worker to help you take (some or all of) the actual shelves out of the shelving unit. Use that space to publicize events and put up larger displays.
Short on time?: Use volunteers! Teen volunteers are probably (hopefully?) the same teens that will be utilizing the Teen Space. Therefore, use them to help you shift. Offer volunteer/service hours or library card fine amnesty in return for their time.
Idea #2: Have a Teen Center that pops up wherever you have space. If you can’t have permanent space in your building, plan a weekly pop-up in your library’s meeting room or children’s storytime room. Bring TVs and gaming systems, laptop computers, a cart of new YA books, craft supplies, etc. Move the day and time around as it suites the needs of your teens, but try to do this on a regular basis.
Idea #3: Take that pop-up Teen Center to a local community center or school. Load up your car with all of the necessary equipment and set up shop in the non-library space. Plan this alongside a school’s afterschool tutoring program (maybe to begin immediately after tutoring sessions) and watch your attendance sky-rocket. While the teens play games, tell them about the library and invite them to visit and say hello to you next time they visit. *Have a special treat to give to the teens that do visit the library and seek you out. If possible, give them a teen-friendly tour of the branch and maybe even introduce them to a couple co-workers. Prove to them that they are welcome.
Idea #4: You know all those computers and comfy chairs in the adult area? Teens like those, too. Move a couple of each closer to the teen shelves. This encourages the teens to be comfortable in their own space, even if it’s a mere 20 feet from the adult area. Put a sign over the computers and chairs informing customers that they are for teens only (during non-school hours). *This will likely result in angry adult users once in a while. The “my tax dollars” fight will begin, but if you and the entire staff stand your ground this won’t continue forever.
Idea #5: If you have a bit of spare money (or receive a grant? Or win the lottery? Or acquire a millionaire benefactor?) purchase teen-friendly furniture and computers (Macs?) instead of just taking away from the adult area (a la idea #4). Put a plaque on the wall near all of this new stuff describing the area as a teen space and thanking those who supported it (Board, director, etc.). That way the teens and the adults who scope out the area know who it is for and why it is there. *Using private funds such as a donation or grant for these items will allow you to say, “These were not purchased with tax dollars,” which is a great way to put the kibosh on the ol’ “my tax dollars!” argument.
Idea #6: Display YA books and program flyers in the places where the teens are (i.e computer banks, study carrels, etc.). Maybe the teens don’t know you own entire shelves of YA books, magazines, and audio books. A sign pointing them in the right direction will not only inform them, it will inform your community that your library cares for teens and wants to provide services specifically for them. Be creative with your displays (tape arrows to the floor to literally guide them to the materials).
Idea #7: Even if you cannot shift books, set up a teen-only computer station, or buy comfy furniture to put near the teen stacks, you can make the teen stacks stand out. Cover the shelving units in bright colored paper. Have the teens make posters to tape to the shelves or hang from the ceiling over the shelves. The possibilities go on and on. Paint the walls nearest to the stacks, even! Delineate the teen center from the rest of the library.
Whatever you choose to do, try to do it with a few teen volunteers. Making them a part of the library gives what you do that much more meaning.
Previous YALSA bloggers have posted great articles on teen centers/spaces. For more inspiration, read these:
Whose Space is it? By Linda Braun
Trading Spaces: visiting each other’s libraries by Erin Daly and Gretchen Kolderup