Adults in the Teen Space

It’s one of those awkward issues we deal with as Teen Librarians: adults hanging out in the Teen section. Depending on how your library is set up, this may or may not be an issue. It was for me.

Some background: When I first started at my library, they were just finishing a huge addition to the old building. I was excited because I was coming from a VERY small library and now I was getting my own office in the Children’s Room that also had a separate Storytime Room! Amazing! So I was psyched to see what they had planned for the teen section…. The “Teen Section” was 2 low shelves DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE ADULT CIRCULATION DESK. Obviously there were some major trust issues going on. I was dumbfounded. This multi-million dollar addition did not include any separate space for teens at all.

Fast forward a couple of years and those 2 shelves were bursting. The adult floor consisted of a Reference section with 2 study rooms, then the circulation desk in the middle, the teen shelves and then the adult collection. I had heard about some libraries starting to integrate reference into non-fiction, so I told my director I was taking over Reference and she was all for it! We now have a much larger area for the Teen/Young Adult collection, which is awesome. However, it is not an enclosed area and adults who were used to sitting at the tables and using the computers in this space seemed to have no idea that anything had changed. The Tuesday night scrabble club continued to use one of the long tables for their “meetings” which scared away the teens. And adults continued to use the computers here instead of the ones in the adult section.

So even though the Young Adult collection was here, Adults still treated the space like it was part of the Adult area, which was understandable because it still kind of was. There were no walls or doors. There were plenty of tables, comfy chairs and computers in the Adult area to use, but you know how adults can get set in their ways! We had one rather interesting gentleman who used our long computer table in the Teen section as his private office. He would yell at the teens sitting on the other side of the room if they were talking. And then one day a teen told me he had been using a computer and a weird guy yelled at him and made him get off, stating it was “his” computer. That was the last straw for me.

I went to my director and told her that while adults were perfectly welcome and encouraged to browse and borrow from the YA collection, the tables, chairs and computers in that space should be reserved for teens only. I wanted our teens to not only feel like they had their own space, but that we cared about them as much as we care about our adult and children patrons. My director was completely supportive. I was worried about how some of the adults would react and I was worried about the adult staff taking the heat. Since my office is downstairs in the Children’s Room, I would be out of the line of fire. I told them and my director that if any adult patron had a problem, then I would speak to that person personally.

Then I made these signs:

     

At first people didn’t get it, but after a bit of explaining we got the message across and no one seemed overly upset about it. I think a few adults may have taken offense to the No Adult Parking signs, but they were really there for the teens and meant to be amusing. (My sense of humor doesn’t always translate….) We also recently painted the section a slightly different color (not many colors would match with the decor of the adult section) and we have a small decorating committee from TAB working on ideas. We leave the signs out all the time, even during school hours. We don’t usually kick out the stray adult who settles at a table when no other teens are there, but we steer any adults who ask about tables and computers to the adult area.

And all the teens in the library were happy. The end.

Epilogue….

~I moved the Scrabble Club’s table to one in the adult section. They complained because they are now farther away from the Kuerig coffee machine. But the adult staff was really happy because they were kind of a rowdy group of old ladies!

~Crazy computer guy ignored the signs until we had to tell him he needed to move. He was actually completely fine about it. Sadly, he no longer visits our library anymore after getting in a fight with another patron, threatening to sue us, and getting kicked out. He then was kicked out of the library in the next town. He already had a restraining order from the library in his home town. Sometimes things really do work out for the best. 😉

 

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