Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Next Big Thing in Teen Spaces

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Modern teen library spaces is one of the themes discussed on YALSA's blog this month. The writer, Linda W. Braun, asks us to consider what our teen library spaces will be transformed into, once the day comes when there will be no need for book shelves or even computer labs. Read her post here. She suggests that with all that extra space, we need to think of creative solutions to use that space wisely, be it new furniture, "Maker" programming, setting up a "Genius Bar", etc.

I think this situation is very interesting to ponder and consider. Some libraries have well funded and supported teen areas but this isn't always the case. If there isn't much space to begin with for teens in some public libraries, what are we really talking about? I've read about libraries having a couple of book cases, a small table and some chairs, and perhaps a simple display that is considered the "Teen section". If you take this away, does anybody notice? If your library admin hasn't given you much space for them in the first place, why would they give it to you now that you don't need it because "everybody has a device".

You also have to look at the culture of your library. If your director isn't too crazy about teens, you may already find it hard to program for them. Having a "bunch of free space" is no guarantee that it'll be awarded to teen services to attract patrons that may not be high on the welcome list in the first place.

Ms. Braun, though she is casting a wide net in posing this question, seems to be making a few assumptions I've alluded to already. One of these is the assumption that all libraries have these large teen book collections that are at risk of being eliminated by technology. Another is that with all that new open space, YOU have a choice as to what to do with it. And a third assumption is that all teens will possess said "technology" that replaces said "eliminated books" and are skilled at using it.

This last assumption should make us realize why we got into this profession in the first place. Our patrons need us because we know how to do stuff with technology or are savvy enough to find out how. Our patrons will probably need us to have technology available for them if we intend on teaching them how to do things with it. Not all teens will have an iPhone that works identically for everyone or be able to afford one. Having a standard library technology helps us find information and teach better. As knowledge collectors and connectors, we librarians are needed to help our teen patrons find answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, and techniques to their creation of knowledge!

We need to be sensitive to all of our patrons' needs when considering what we can offer them as a library. Not all of them will have an eDevice, not all of them will be tech savvy, and not all of them will care what's going on in the library. But we definitely need to do more than to have a bunch of  tables with chairs around them in that nice new empty space we just got.

I have also posted a shorter response to Ms. Braun's post here.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you posted about this and I love that you ask the question, "What if these spaces were taken away?" WOULD anybody notice? I really think that, at my library, the teens most definitely would. The adults may not at first, but they definitely would once the teens started using what is currently known as the "Adult Computer Lab". My teens currently only have a corner space with a few book shelves, two desktop computers, and three tables with two chairs at each table. We are planning to expand our building space within the next few years and so I have been anle to see what blue prints the architects have been drawing up. It's been almost 6 months now since I last looked at one, but they were trying to place the teens in a corner once again after expanding the building space. I was actually outraged at this and was able to pull some statistics through our circulation database in order to point out to our board and to the architects how often books circulate from the teen section and how quickly the young adult genre is on the rise and how the genres can be blurred between young adult and adult and that this would make the young adult market that much more appealing. Needless to say, the teens will be getting their own actual "space" now. I definitely think it is important to give teens their own space. They (along with children, obviously) are the future of the library and deserve respect as such.