I know many of us are lucky enough to have our own separate teen space for the teens to hang out. Some of us are doubly lucky and have a desk in our teen space. And some of us have none.
I’m closest to the none. I share a desk with the rest of Youth Services and usually get the computer facing towards our YA section, but it’s more of a large alcove than anything, with a giant pillar in the middle which obstructs my view of a good portion of the section. We have couches across from it near the desk but all their sitting space on the floor and such has been filled in by furniture (not my choice). The YA area itself has two high top tables tucked in the back with three high chairs each.
It’s a great space for the collection as far as shelving and is the perfect size for what our collection should be, for the most part (I’d like a few more shelves for a small nonfiction section and/or putting the YA audiobooks there, but I’ll still take it). However, since I’m also on the desk for all patrons there, it’s hard sometimes to even spot my teens as they come in. My usual suspects I can often spot far enough ahead I can say hi as they pass the desk. I try sometimes to approach teens in the area (when I can see them) but not only is it not really in my personality (flaw, I know) but I’m usually busy and can’t get away to say hi or see if they need something.
The best I’ve managed is to try and at least give them all a smile and a hello, with a name if I know it, but it’s definitely a work in progress that might never fully pan out as well as I’d like.
How can we still create an environment for our teens that is inviting and gives them the space that they need when we don’t physically have a space devoted to them that hits their needs? Many of us have picked a space somewhere in the library to designate as a teen gathering space, and many use signs to keep other age patrons away during the primo teen times (Afterschool, weekends, vacations, etc.).
We all try and help teach our coworkers why teens are important and not to overreact at their slightest behavior and let them rest wherever they want. We also open our program room on non-program afternoons to any kids wanting to do homework from middle school and up and word of it seems to be spreading as we had more kids than usual in the last month before the end of school.
I also make it a point to learn names as soon as possible. I’ve discovered I’m great at the names of people under 18 so I’ve made that my goal in life. To remember them after the first or second time I meet them. It definitely seems to pull in the kids, even though our hang out space isn’t great.
And, of course, we try and lure them back with programs that they want, which is why basically everything I do is Advisory Board suggested.
What other things do all of you do to get teens in the door to stay, hang out, feel comfortable approaching you for help and feel safe in the library when you don’t have a dedicated teen space and/or desk?