Young Adult Library Services

Vol 15 No 1_Fall 2016

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JENNIFER VELÁSQUEZ What are the results when a teen space is designed with input from teens and a focus on teen needs? Lessons Learned From a New Teen Space T he San Antonio Public Li- brary's Teen Library @ Central opened for 13- to 18-year-olds in May 2015. To get to that opening we undertook a process of planning for the space that included teen input and began not with questions about furniture selection and color choices but by talking about what teens want to/like to/desire to do in their library. We asked the question, "What do we want to happen here?" The process of planning the Teen Library offered the opportunity to ponder why teens use library space (in addition to how and for what). Partnering with teens in the process, following their lead and framing their requirements within a "real" service landscape revealed a set of universal (if incomplete) functions. Teens in focus groups spoke again and again to the need for quiet space, active space, and social space. Below you'll find recommendations for meeting teen space needs within quiet, active, and social spaces. I also list some "things you should know" and consider how to incorporate both current and future teen space planning and needs. Keep Expectations in Check The arrangement of a library's teen space, no matter how small, can contribute to or be the cure for many of the challenges libraries face when serving teens. Sometimes staff ex- pectations of how teens will use the space, for example, assuming teens want space to support current fads, or an inability to evolve services to meet the needs of current teen users, have an unintentionally negative impact on decisions made about teen spaces. Library staff in the midst of planning teen space often say things like, "The teens will use this area for home- work—and they will use this area for hanging out." This type of thinking naturally embeds within it a set of expectations of how teens will use the space and that there are intended uses if we follow the line to its ultimate conclusion that will limit actual use of the teen space. That's why it's better to design neu- tral spaces that allow for a variety of uses that teens determine themselves based on time of day, current needs, and so on. This is also better because if specific functions and uses are placed on teen spaces by staff, it can lead to interactions that are challenging to both teens and staff and that can actu- ally lead to teens not using the space at all. Let's take the example of the "one-person-per-library-computer" rule common in many libraries. Teens like to look at web-based content together. They like to share YouTube videos with friends (so do you!). Watching YouTube videos is not a sol- itary activity. The "one-person-to-a- computer" rule is troublesome because it attempts to control the way teens want to use technology and experi- ence content—and it can be a setup for conflict between staff and teens. Participation, Contemplation, Engagement A teen space, if rendered in a flexible, neutral way and with an eye to the fu- ture, can serve many functions simul- taneously. I propose below a model for teen space that supports the areas teens in San Antonio said they most needed from the public library. FEATUREs 31 f a l l 2 0 1 6 » Y o u n g a d u l t l i b r a r Y S e r v i c e S » Y a l S

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