In 2005, my community constructed a much needed 5,500 square foot library addition. The floor plan included space for materials, a community room, and storage, but it lacked something very important–an area for teens. Young adults browsed the collection, checked out items, then zipped right out the front door. As we turned our attention to youth programming, we realized the room was not helping our efforts. We wanted to encourage teens to linger, to come to the library because it was a safe, comfortable place. It was time for a Teen Zone.
With very little money and very little floor space, the library created a comfortable area that is frequently used by local middle and high school students to read, socialize, study, play computer games and craft. Here is how we did it:
- Paint – Even with limited space, you can create a defined area using paint. Belgrade teens voted on a color for the Teen Zone, and the shade “legendary blue” (aquamarine) won by a landslide. We complimented the vibrant color with a gray accent wall and black chalk board paint. By letting the teens pick the primary color, the library created a striking, teen-friendly look. If you are worried about ending up with florescent green, I recommend picking three or four shades everyone can live with before opening up the vote.
- Shelf placement – Originally, the teen shelves were placed back to back in one long row parallel to a wall of windows. Simply reorienting the shelves freed up a ton of room, allowed more natural light, and eliminated a hidden nook. Moving shelves is tedious, but you can make sure everything fits by tracing plans with masking tape on the floor before actually shifting.
- Furniture – Comfy chairs can become the most expensive part of the project if you are not careful. ‘ We searched the clearance list for durable, mobile furniture, and came up with modern looking wedges that match the feel of our space. The furniture is simple to clean, stack, and move around. ‘ Mobility has been the most important feature. Because the space is small, we occasionally host activities like Wii and DIY tech projects in a different space. The wedges come with us.
- Art – Windows cover an entire wall in our teen area so hanging space is limited. We decided to focus on recrafting our directional signs to add more color and visual interest. Using public domain comic books, I created colorful, visually appealing shelf labels. They are easy to read and are fun to look at. For more temporary displays, we installed a cork board. We also invested in a metal Teen Zone sign to pull the whole area together.
- And an unanticipated feature…floor coverings – Several months after creating the space, we purchased interlocking foam tiles in compatible colors and arranged them in a checker board pattern on the floor. Like many other libraries, we are exploring DIY and maker programs, and with hands-on discovery comes a bit of a mess. The tiles protect the carpet and minimize anxieties regarding’ spilled paint and sticky substances. They are also durable because they are made to go under exercise equipment.
For more ideas on how to create an effective teen space, take a look at YALSA’s Teen Space Guidelines. You don’t need a large budget to make many of the suggestions a reality.
Do you live in a rural area and have a teen zone? Did you create a teen space on a shoestring budget? Tell us about your space in the comments!