Ask an Agent: Creating a Teen Space without a Room?

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: What are examples of creating a “teen space” in a library without a physical room to dedicate to teens?



Doris (Chemung County Library District ) says: 

I’ve seen teen spaces created using the YA shelving, movable white boards, displays, etc.  Area rugs and colorful signage (use teen art work too!) can designate an area without building walls. For more great ideas, I recommend webinars on Teen spaces, and the books: “Starting From Scratch: Building a Teen Library Program” by Sarah Ludwig. Libraries Unlimited. 2011.  and Kimberly Bolan’s: “Teen Spaces, the Sep-by-Step Library Makeover.” ALA. Chicago, IL. 2009

Kelsey (Burnham Memorial Library) says: 

What about a corner, different colored rug in between shelving, or other partition-creating furniture piece? I have a semi-separate room for teens and the biggest help has been the carpet. Yes, the carpet! Whoever designed the space was smart enough to have different colored carpets for different areas when there wasn’t or couldn’t be a wall. Where does the teens space begin and the children’s space end on the chalkboard wall–where the carpet ends! Maybe you could accomplish some similar separation with a circle of chairs, or a space that has YA shelving (also different color options) to sort of block it off from the rest of your library.

Samantha (Winslow Public Library) says:

Our library is a former roller skating rink, so I feel your pain! For a teen space, we have taken a back corner of the room, put a couch, coffee and side table, lamp, tall table and stools and another table pushed up against the wall where there is an outlet. The YA books are also shelved there. It’s bordered on one side by the reference section. A lot of the furniture was moved there from another location when we re-did our floor plan. I’m still working on getting the bulletin board moved over from its old location. I do see teens hanging out there and doing homework, and they haven’t been too loud yet. Because we are one big open room, and story time often happens in the children’s part of the library, I think our patrons are used to our library not being the quietest.

Stephen (Chapel Hill Public Library) says:

Think about exactly what you want to do with a teen space. What are the desired outcomes? Programming space? Hangout space? A place to house a physical collection? Also think about what staff limitations and interests there are (i.e. should it be staffed all day? Or at all? Will the children’s or adult librarian be able to staff the area and do RA, general management of the space, etc.? Or will you have to do it all?) It certainly depends on the library space itself, but if you focus on one or two of these things you’ll likely have a more successful area. (All libraries are different, but I think it would be very difficult to have a small, not enclosed area be a program space/hangout area/collection and still be comfortable and usable!) Some generalities to think about: it’s probably best to keep it away from the children’s area if at all possible because teens want to feel more like adults than young children; visible sightlines are good but you don’t want to invade teens’ privacy; think about what technology might be in demand and how you could provide that. My library was renovated in the last few years and we’re fortunate enough to finally have a teen space, but one thing we’re running into now is, since we have a goal of better serving and engaging teens, how can we make our entire building teen friendly? Not all teens want to hang out in the teen room! Starting a teen nook/corner/area/etc. is a great opportunity to talk to your staff about serving teens all over the building.


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