Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

Belgrade Community Library Teen Zone

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: Read More →

The Foundation – a Teen Space

Indiana has some pretty terrific teen spaces and spaces that have broken the typical library mold and branched out, so to speak, on their own.’  One library, located in the small community of South Whitley, has purchased a whole house for their teen department to use as a program space.’  indianaShannon Langmaid, the Youth Services Librarian at South Whitley, tells the story:’  Read More →

We’re on the way back to Boston… (again, not really – I have been home for a week now – but this post covers the return journey.)

This leg of the trip was less structured than the beginning. We’re staying with family (my brother in Ohio) and friends (my friend Katie in Kansas) and my wonderful second family in Rochester, the parents of Maggie Levine, one of the children’s librarians at the main branch of the Boston Public Library.

Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library Teen Space

Lawrence (Kansas) Public Library Teen Space

I also received a surprise phone call from my mom telling me that, while on vacation, she read all my posts. They inspired her to visit the Pitkin County Library in Aspen, Colorado to check out their collection. More ‘ about them later in the post. Read More →

I’m in Austin!

(Okay not really anymore, I am home now, I couldn’t really write coherently from my iPhone while on the trip…)

In Austin, I was lucky to be able to spend a few day with my friend Jenny and her husband George. Jenny is a former blogger for Forever Young Adult and currently blogs for Writers Out of Bounds. She is working on her first YA novel, so we have a lot in common and a lot of YA to talk about…we’re both hardcore fans of Michael Grant’s Gone series and hadn’t seen each other since before the last book came out.

OutYouth Center for LGBT Teens in Austin

OutYouth Center for LGBT Teens in Austin

While in Austin, I visited three libraries, ate LOTS of BBQ and was lucky enough to meet with Natalia Ornelas, the program coordinator at Out Youth, a nonprofit in Austin that serves LGBT youth. Before I describe my experiences, I want to quickly go over my method of identifying libraries to visit and what I do once I am there. Read More →

The road trip has begun! It is hard for me to write a ton while I am on the road because I only have my phone but here are my thoughts so far:

1. Texas is really hot. I was expecting the heat, and I was prepared because we just had an awful heat wave in Boston where I live, but Texas is something else entirely. It also didn’t help that I waited outside in the sun for three hours at Franklin’s BBQ for lunch. Although it was totally worth it. Now that I have eaten Texas BBQ I can never go back to what we eat in New England.

2. The libraries I visited on the way to Austin were very varied in their size, collection, set up etc. (no surprise there) but mostly really awesome in their own ways.

I’ve been to eight libraries with plans for a bunch more in the next week or so. All the libraries I’ve visited have had at least three novels on the shelf in their teen collection with LGBT characters and at least one nonfiction title discussing being gay in a positive way. Of those eight libraries, four have had at least ten titles and multiple nonfiction titles (either in a specific teen nonfiction section or in the regular adult nonfiction section.)

Laman Public Library in Little Rock Teen Space

Laman Public Library in Little Rock Teen Space

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by Portia Latalladi

Near the State Street entrance of the Harold Washington Library Center, you’ll find a special space where high school teens can express themselves in unique ways, utilizing the latest technology and gadgets. This successful hub of inspiration and innovation has garnered national attention and serves as a model to the wave of teen tech spaces that have begun to emerge everywhere. This space is the Chicago Public Library’s groundbreaking’ YouMedia’ center, and a visit there should be an item on everyone’s 2013 ALA Annual “bucket list.”

The dedicated staff and mentors of’ YouMedia lead teens in a range of workshops, from digital music production and digital video production to graphic design and podcasting, to’ give them the skills and resources to produce fabulous works of self-expression and creativity.

On Sunday, June 30th from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m., a member of YouMedia’s staff will conduct an overview and tour of the space; registration will be limited to the first twenty-five people who register.




teen girl with mobile device Earlier this week I presented a YALSA Institue on Teens and Technology. The participants, library staff at libraries in the Southern Maryland Regional Library Association, and I talked a lot about what we know about teens in 2012/13, when it comes to technology. And, as I think about the topics discussed, it’s clear to me that quite a bit of what we covered is key in connecting with, creating for, and collaborating with teens in 2013. Here are some examples:

  • One YA librarian who has a brand new job in a brand new library talked about surveying the teens she works with to find out what they wanted and needed the library to provide. What did they tell her? They wanted space for hanging out with friends and being a part of the teen community. This might not be so surprising, but it does bring up a couple of key points related to connecting, creating, and collaborating in 2013. First, teens aren’t necessarily going to look at the library as their source of materials. While we still want to connect teens to materials, more importantly we need to provide space for teens to create and collaborate on their own and with their peers. This may be via a makerspace, a learning lab, and/or a flexibly furnished teen space that teens can turn into something that works at the exact moment for a specific need. It’s about the space perhaps along with the materials. And, maybe in some cases, the space more than the materials. This is also space that parents and caregivers feel comfortable having their teens spend time in. While we can’t be 100% safe, teens telling adults in their lives they are going to the library to hangout with friends is most likely something that parents will feel comfortable with. Read More →

American Libraries recently posted an article about programming for homeschooled kids and their families. There are a lot of great ideas there that you should take a look at, but very few of the ideas are focused on teens. Like any library media specialist knows, teens need to have their reading, research, and library skills in check before college, and those being homeschooled are no different.

In addition to inviting those teens to your regular programming and events, consider doing things for them during the lull of the day, when everyone else is in school. Not all parents who homeschool are necessarily schooled in how to use library databases, scholarly journals, and online media for research projects, so perhaps a small group might appreciate a workshop similar to the ones high school students get from their librarians. You could even designate a special hour a week for drop-in lessons.

On a similar note, homeschools don’t employ full-time college counselors, but you probably have a circulating and non-circulating collection of test prep books, college guides, and more. Another unique daytime program you can offer, then, is a college workshop. Invite some current college students, whose schedules also allow them to have some free hours during the day, to answer questions about local schools and essay topics, and see if any of your regular homework tutors can volunteer to come in and help with the process. Read More →

As a part of redesigning the teen space at my library we were looking for a way to partition off some space without building an actual wall. ‘ We thought about moving bookshelves, we daydreamed about sound proof glass, but nothing seemed feasible. ‘ Until my director came up with an idea: what about movable partitions that you can hang things on? ‘ Where would they go? Wherever we wanted. We could reserve the right to change our minds whenever we liked. ‘ What would we hang on them? Colored paper? Teen programming information? We settled on sketchbooks, figuring that would make it easy for content to change.

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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.