How To Create a Teen Space in Your Library

19 Jul

One of the most important steps any library can take toward supporting young people is creating a teen/young adult space within the library. Depending on the size, content, and resources of your library, the space may be as big as its own complex of rooms or as small as a shelf of books and a bulletin board. Regardless, a teen area is worth having. But if you don’t already have one, how to go about creating one? What if your library service can barely cover its costs and can’t give you much cash for the area? What if the teen space that you really want is virtual rather than physical? (There will be future posts about engaging teens online and building teen-specific library websites, so look for those within the next month.)

It’s important to be able to defend the need for teen space (especially if you’re asking for money from your service), so first take a look at The Need for Teen Spaces in Public Libraries (via YALSA).

First, for inspiration take a look at these photos of teen spaces in all types and sizes of libraries: Teen Spaces by Kim Bolan of Indie Librarian (check out her blog for more inspiring ideas for planning teen spaces!).

There are some basic things to consider including purpose, space, money, and design.

Make some time (preferably with other enthusiastic colleagues) to come up with a list of wishes and dreams. In the best of all worlds, with an infinite budget and infinite staff, what would your teen spaces be like? You might be surprised how many of things you may accomplish through a little craftiness (and/or a few well-placed funding applications). Don’t be afraid to dream big and suggest outlandish ideas, as you never know what good may come of them.

Next, consult teens in your area (there’ll be a few posts about outreach and consultation in the next few days, so watch for those! In the meantime, take a look at some images from Lancashire Libraries’ amazing teen consultation process.). What do they want the space to look like? What kind of materials do they want? Do they want a virtual space or a physical space, computers, books, beanbag chairs or formal hardwood desks, video game consuls or revision nooks?

Finally, consider the budget you have, the space (physical and virtual) that’s available, and how many of the ideas proposed are actually achievable. Which aspects of the projects are most important, and how can you fund them? (Don’t forget to check out our list of potential funding sources.) Also consider where in the library the teen space will fit. If you work in a one-room shack, it might be a dedicated shelf; a medium-sized library might provide a cordoned-off corner or a room; and a large library or a new library still being planned might dedicate a whole custom-designed space to the venture.

For an idea of how to estimate costs for your project, check out the last page of Info People’s handout on Low Cost Teen Spaces, which gives a sample budget sheet for a teen space renovation. Similarly, ALA offers some great resource sheets (including blank budget sheets for your use) on their page for Teen Spaces Second Edition, offering a design questionnaire, a sample shopping form, a planning worksheet, and more.

You may already know that  Headspace (part of The Reading Agency) helps libraries design teen spaces for a fee. This is perfectly for libraries being renovated or moving to a new, custom-made location, and ideal for libraries that have a budget set aside for YA services.

The topic of creating a teen space is too large and too varied to cover in just one sitting. Hopefully this article will provide a springboard for the creation of your new teen space. As YA Library UK grows, there will be more posts about all aspects of creating teen areas in libraries. If you have ideas, queries of comments, please don’t hesitate to email or tweet them in my direction!


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