I know that there are many articles, workshops, and blog entries circulating on teen spaces.Most of these revolve around the physical trappings of the area:what furniture did we buy, how did we find the space, what paint colors did we use, etc. Most prominently, they state how they got the money for this project. Who gave it, and how did we talk them into it? Having a teen space is seen as a vital part of serving teens. But where does that leave libraries that, for whatever reason, can’t get the funding?Or what if, no matter how supportive your administration is, they can’t enlarge your teen space any more than it is?

I am of the opinion that even if funding can’t be acquired, we can do simple, cost-effective things to make the teens feel at home in whatever space we have. Here’s a few things my library has done in the past few months.

Make a scrapbook of teen photos—Take photos of teens at your library doing homework, volunteering, or attending events and put them in an inexpensive photo album. Use whatever scrapbooking skills you have to make it fun. Use a collage style. Put the scrapbook somewhere in your teen section with a sign: Are YOU in our Hall of Fame? Teens love looking at pictures. This is a simple way to show teens that this is their library. It’s also a great advertising tool and may convince teens that don’t attend your program to begin doing so. Total cost: $10 or less; save money by printing pictures on regular copy paper.

Put teen art in your teen space or anywhere in your library—Call local schools and ask them to consider bringing a class project to your library. Place a sign near the art that says which school and what grades are represented. During your TAB or TAG meetings, have teens make small art pieces and place them on your shelves.Our wonderful lamp lets us hang teen art all year long. We also recently had an art teacher put up a pole gallery in our space (Thanks, Mr. Sands). Total cost: Free

Let teens paint in their space—Let teens make the space their own by allowing them to paint the bookends. Bookends can be painted with book themes. Make sure to prime the bookends first.

Find ways to let teens recommend books—Teens will read books that other teens suggest. Allow your TAB or book club members to mark their favorites. Give each teen a laminated set of bookmarks that have their name on it. You can also use clothespins with laminated tags on them that you pin to the book. For a more creative touch, let teens make collage cards in the style of Post Secret that recommend favorite books. Stick the cards into similar books.

I’m sure there are many other wonderful ideas to make teen spaces truly theirs with minimal or no cost. What ideas have you put into practice that have worked well?

About Lindsey Dunn

I am a teen librarian who has worked in the Wake County Library system for six years now. I have been in YALSA for 3 years now and currently serve on the YA Galley Committee. I received my MLS at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2001. My specialties include book clubs, teen advisory boards, programming, and blogging.

10 Thoughts on “Teen Spaces: Mark Them With Your Teens’ Scents

  1. Hey Lindsey:

    Way to go!!!I love your scrapbook idea 🙂 I am currently working on a book proposal “Teen Spaces on a Shoestring”. It’s refreshing to see teen art in your library too. My teen space the “teenzone” was just featured in the August 2008 issue of VOYA. Where is your library? I’d love to keep in touch.

    Chris Cooper, Librarian
    Fortuna Library
    753 14th St
    Fortuna CA 95540
    ccooper@co.humboldt.ca.us (w)
    christopher.cooper@mac.com (h)
    707-725-6731 (w)

  2. I looooove the art lamp! Where did you find it? How often do you change the art?

  3. The lamp is great. You can find it on the Ingo-Maurer website. It is ingo-maurer.com. I don’t know how to hyperlink that. It is on the page with hanging lamps. I change the art out seasonally, so at least four times a year. A couple things about the lamp: the lighbulb is VERY bright, 250 watts. We had staff complain about getting migraines so we changed it to a 60 watt bulb. Also, it takes work! The stems have to be installed how you want them. We have to get on a ladder to change the art. So it does take some time. I saw this same lamp at a shopping mall so I think it is pretty hip. So far, we have had snowflakes, hearts, and origami for summer.

  4. thank you! i really appreciate the info.

  5. Enjoying teen art makes me feel young. Thanks for the info.

  6. I’m interested in doing the bookend painting projects with my teens. What did you use as a primer? Did you spray it on? What sort of paint did you use for the actual designs? Thanks for the info!

  7. Hi Sarah,
    The primer was a spray primer called Zinsser Cover Stain Primer. The paint is just plain acrylic colors. If you just buy red, blue, yellow, black, and white, the teens can mix their own colors. It’s more fun that way. Have large and small brushes, provide water for rinsing brushes, and cover tables with newspaper. The spray primer needs to dry overnight so do that the night before they paint.

  8. I love the bookend idea, too. I’m wondering how the cat design ended up on the green bookend. Did you use a stencil? Did the teens draw the cat on first with a pencil? Did they do that freehand?

  9. No, unbelievably a teen made the cat free-hand. This was made by a very artistically gifted teen.

  10. Great. Many greetings from Germany.

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