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.