What do you do with middle school students acting like…well, middle school students? Give them a Room of Their Own! Teen spaces are becoming an increasingly common means to keep teens coming into the library once they reach that awkward age of too old for the kids section, but needing their own space. The path to teen-centered spaces in libraries has been paved by advocacy.

“When I wrote the first edition of Teen Spaces in 2002, no one was even really thinking about teen spaces with the exception of a few like Phoenix and Los Angeles,” says author and consultant Kim Cullin. “In the mid to late 90’s I had worked to create teen spaces in a several rural libraries and ended up doing a ton of public speaking on the topic to motivate others to do the same. It became a mission!” ‘ Cullin goes on to say that by the time she started working on the second edition, teen spaces had become increasingly commonplace. ‘ â€œI had so many wonderful examples to show people as compared to the few and far between that were out there while writing the first edition.”
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A few years ago I was early for a workshop I was going to lead at New York Public Library’s Teen Central (when it was at the Donnell Branch). I knew about the Teen Central policy regarding adult use of the space. Adults can look for books and get help from a librarian, but they can’t sit at a table to work, read, etc. Yet, even though I knew about that policy, I also knew that I was friendly with several of the librarians that worked at Teen Central and thought they would waive the rules for me. (Which really wasn’t appropriate at all.) Read More →

Recently I graded a set of library school student projects. For these projects students needed to talk with teens about the ways teens spend their time, how they find out about the materials and activities in which they are interested, and what they think of libraries – school and public. As I read through the assignments something became very clear. For at least some teens, the library is not much more than a supermarket. It’s a place where you go when you have to “pick something up.” It’s a place that you visit as quickly as possible and only when you have to. Like a supermarket, it’s a place that can be confusing if the signs are not helpful and there isn’t staff that is willing to engage and answer questions in a friendly manner. Read More →

In this podcast Linda Braun talks with Carrie Bryniak and Sarah Cornish Debraski, co-chairs of the 2008 President’s Program, about the upcoming program titled Between Home & School: The Teen Third Space The program will be held during the 2008 Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA.


You can read more about third space:

To contribute a snapshot of your library or MySpace for use in the program slideshow send an email to aorr@pvld.org.

In this podcast Linda Braun talks with Kim Bolan about library spaces for teens. The conversation includes discussion of:

  • Technology in teen space
  • Selling fellow staff and administration on the importance of teen space
  • Current trends in teen space
  • Working with teens in creating library teen spaces

You can learn more about Kim and teen spaces on her blog – The Indie Librarian.


At PLA in Boston. My first session of the day: The Denver Public Library presented a program on how they reinventing their libraries with a target service model – different library brands to meet the needs of various demographics (users who want a central library, an online library, a contemporary library, a learning & language library, etc).

My final session of the day: In “From Good to Great,” Cate McNeely said “Everything we do send messages to our customers, even desks: intimidating, welcoming, hostile, inviting.”

I put these two ideas together and came up with this question: what kind of message does it send to your community–and your profession–when you don’t design a library specifically for teens, but you do have TWO types of libraries specifically focused on serving children? Children’s libraries are designed for latchkey kids, and Family Libraries for, well, families.

The FAQ in the handout from the AM session said Denver did use teens in their focus groups, and decided that teens were included in the “Contemporary” category – they were likely to choose the Contemporary brand because it was about multiple copies available now, computers, and media. We of all people should know that words matter, and so do the absence of words.

Having a library marketed to ALL other segments of your population – except teens – sends a clear message about teens in this community: that they are not valued enough to be considered or served in a physical space.

I was a little pacificed to see that teens are targeted online at http://teens.denverlibrary.org/. Are there any Denver YA librarians out there who want to shed a little insight?

On a hopeful note, one of the speakers said that in each quadrant of the community, there is at least one of each type of library, and in each quadrant, there seems to be an “orphan branch” that isn’t flourishing. I’d be advocating for those branches to become the teen centers.

~posted by Beth Gallaway