Ask an Agent: Convincing the Board to Create a Teen Space

askanagent2You’ve got questions,  we’ve got answers! Our volunteer Agents are on the job! Here’s what they have to say this week….

Question:  The Board is reluctant to agree to building a teen space because (among other reasons) “setting aside a space just for teens is restricting access to a part of the library, and is wasting library space.” I mention teens’ unique developmental needs for a space of their own, the use of the space for homeschooling teen groups that now meet in the kids’ area, use of the space for teen programs, that we will allow anyone in to browse books (so as not to “restrict access” to materials), but they can’t stay and “hang out” unless they are 12-18, YALSA guidelines, safety from creepy people, the small but steady attendance at programs I have now, YA circulation & teen patron stats. I’m working with the TAG members to talk to the board, too. All the Trustees can picture is spending money on a space that will remain empty for most of each day. It is not like I’m overrun with teens in general, but I think they’d hang out more if we DID have a space for them. They also want to know how I will “track use of the space to justify it.” Aside from tracking program stats and having the reference staff check off any time a teen goes in. …What else can I say or do to address these two main concerns by the Board? (track use, and “wasted space/restricting access.” What have I missed? My director is supportive, but the relationship between the Board and the director is not warm and trusting. It is all on me to persuade them, and I want to be sure I’m not missing any line of reasoning.

Regina (TSU) says:

First, I’m so sorry to hear you’re in this predicament.  In a time where so many libraries are getting the picture that teens deserve personalized attention and space for their specific needs, it’s sad to see that this is still a fight that you have to have.  Honestly, you’ve made some great points already for why the space is needed, and are on the right track in terms of using teens themselves to convey their needs.  My advice would be to use examples of other libraries who have benefited greatly from the addition of teen spaces.  Even going so far as to ask if any board members would be willing to tour a few with you.  My library was one of the first in our area to re-purpose a space into a teen room, and in our first couple years we experienced a number of visiting board members from other libraries who wanted to see how our room was run, organized, and used.  From those visits, at least three other libraries launched teen spaces of their own.  While we don’t have a formal way of tracking space use other than program stats, we have gotten such great word of mouth feedback from both teens and adults, that I think that was enough of a pat on the back for the boards needs.  Good luck to you!  I hope everything works out.  Your teens are lucky to have someone willing to fight for them so valiantly!

 

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