FFL's Teen Space: A Work in Progress

Written by Katie St. Laurent

If you've been a frequent visitor to the FFL over the past year or so, you've probably noticed some changes to our Teen Space.  A lot of changes, actually; we're completely reimagining the space and the teen collection!  Just a few of the changes in progress include improvements to the nonfiction collection, a refreshing of our teen fiction collection, and the addition of a gaming station and new furniture. 

Working here and going to school allows me to do double duty - many of my work projects tie in with school projects.  Last semester in my Planning, Marketing and Assessment course I worked with three other students to create a plan of action for completely reinventing the way the Fayetteville Free Library serves its teenaged patrons. 

What we found in our research was that the most important element in planning a teen space is the teens themselves.  Since the space is intended to serve not just as a repository of books for teens, but as a dynamic and functional space for the teens of our community to work on whatever they're passionate about, we needed to find out what they wanted!  To that end, we've established a Teen Advisory Group that meets most months to discuss ideas for anything from programs to furniture to video games.

We also learned that attitude is key in dealing with teens.  Teens are often shut out of public spaces, and libraries are no exception - even those with spaces which are designated for teens.  Teens are shut out by adults who don't understand their developmental stage, by furniture that doesn't fit their bodies, and by atmospheres that stifle their need to socialize. 

The FFL is incorporating this information into its approach to teens.  All staff understands that teens are a valued part of our patron base, and they strive to balance the needs of teens with those of other library patrons.  We've made a point of making our teen librarian, Pete, more visible and recognizable.  He runs Teen Advisory Group meetings and teen programs, and works within the teen space.  Putting a friendly face on teen services has been an easy way to make it clear that teens are welcome and wanted, and that Pete's job is not just to shush them.  We're also working with the teens to tailor the physical space to their needs.

The teen space is a work in progress, and probably always will be.  Not only is the teen population ever-changing, but there will always be new and better services that we can offer.  Our goal going forward is to always keep the needs of teen patrons at the heart of teen services.  Our teen space is not just a slice of the library set aside for teens, but a unique construction of collections, services and space, all designed to support and enrich the teens of Fayetteville.