Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.

2006-10-20

Creating a Place for Teens to Hang Out

This morning, as I was cruising through my feeds to see what had happened while I slept, I came across a post on Steven Cohen's Library Stuff that referred to this article. The Oshkosh Public Library (from my home state of WI, home of Oshkosh B'Gosh bibs, etc.) revamped its teen space. From the article:
The new teen center in the Oshkosh Public Library opened on September 5. It provides area teens with a safe place to do homework after school, socialize with friends, or simply unwind.

and:
“We’ve been excited to see the teens,” said [Adult and Teen Services Manager, Janice] Dibble. “Sometimes there are attitudes expressed by people that teens are noisy or they’re just goofing around. Sometimes you hear adults say stuff like that, but I think the adults get a chance to see that students come here and they do relax and have fun and check out DVDs and things, but they also are coming to do their homework.”

It's good to read articles like this. After a Teen Read Week I'll be happy to put behind me, it's nice to see articles about people who are making a difference with their teens and the teen spaces in the library.

Something this article talks around, but never comes out and says, is that it's nice that the teens have somewhere to go and be. We live in a world where the ability of teens to go somewhere to hang out is severely limited and restricted. And it's not just the standard misapprehension that adults have towards teens, sometimes it's done to protect teens (i.e., protection from sexual predators). With these restrictions, it's not hard to see why services like MySpace become popular with teens. They no longer have a physical space to hang out, so they hang out wherever they can.

People tend to forget the crux of teen society is sociability. No matter how angsty or mopey a teen may be, he or she would be happier being angsty or mopey with another teen. Or two. A big concern of being a teen is feeling accepted, feeling wanted. To do this, they need to be able to congregate and hang out, whether it's online or in a physical space.

And that's where we come in. As librarians, we can make both the physical and online space for teens feel safe and comfortable and inviting. I can't tell you how often I see piles of teens on the floor near the Manga books just sitting there and reading. Again, from the article:
“Libraries are not always just a place to get your books, and your DVDs and your music, or to look up stuff for homework,” [Reference librarian Ruth] Percey said. “One of the services that a library provides is to provide a meeting space where people can socialize. So I think that’s one of the things that is attractive about this space.”

My library is going through a major renovation, and the teens will have their own room when it's done. I'm excited to create a new space for the teens and have it be something that's different from the rest of the library. This isn't what I'll be doing, but wouldn't this be cool for a teen space?

JK (John Klima)

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