Teens Rule at the Library
Where's the coolest place for teens in Glen Ellyn? The library. Seriously? Seriously!
Right now I’m sitting at the Reference Desk listening to the hubbub created by a full house of high school students “studying” for finals. The library is a buzzing beehive and will continue to be until 10:00, the extra hour reserved for students only. At five o’clock staff members will start serving snacks and coffee in the meeting room. Thus fortified, the kids will mosey on upstairs. Our job tonight is to keep the volume down to a dull roar. Though noticeable certainly, considering the sheer number of kids, the noise level isn't all that bad. Apologies to any unsuspecting non-students who wander in. It happens only twice a year.
One of the many challenges a public library faces is how to serve the young adult population, ages 12-18 as defined by Young Adult Library Services Association. They comprise a unique group who no longer see themselves as children, but are not yet recognized by society as adults. The teenage years are as we know a time of tumult, when teens struggle and explore to define themselves and chart their futures. Teens don’t naturally gravitate to the library; and more than any demographic group, teens need peers to sanction library use. Librarians want very much to present the library as a welcoming place where teens can study and socialize, but I fear there’s something about us that screams “uncool!” I can’t help thinking that once teens realize all the resources designed just for them, they will become lifelong library users.
Shortly after Director Dawn Bussey joined the staff, she conceived The Teen Scene. Why not move out the large print collection and establish an area just for teens? The Teen Scene, thanks to the beneficence of Dan and Midge Anderson and many others, is retro and resplendent in aqua and orange. (I’ve heard it called the Austin Powers Reading Room.)
It’s all teens all the time: no one else is allowed in. Teens have their own librarian, the indefatigable Allison Harrell who shared with me just what the library has for teens: Starting at the end of the month, the library will lend out video games that can be played on your Nintendo DS or Wii, Xbox 360, or PS3, and will continue to sponsor gaming competitions after school in the Teen Scene. Shortly, patrons will have the opportunity to digitally download music through Freegal. Bells and Whistles Snackery will be sponsoring “Snackery Treats to Make and Eat.” Chipotle will be bringing us “What’s on your Plate?,” a documentary about kids and food politics.
The library sponsors “College Week,” a number of programs designed to facilitate the admission process, to explore ways to finance tuition and prepare teens for the personal and academic changes to come. Most useful are Kaplan’s free presentations of the ACT and SAT practice exams.
For study and for pleasure the Young Adult collection boasts a wide range of graphic novels and manga, CliffsNotes, colleges and career guides, selected high school textbooks, and the latest in young adult fiction. Laptop computers are available for use in the library.
We’d love to get teens in the physical doors of the library, but we have a Web presence, too. Teens can submit reference questions online and “chat” with a librarian. Our databases are exhaustive and carefully selected: Learning Express, Medline, Lexis/Nexis, the Science Resource Center and the Virtual Reference Library, to name a few.
Parents, encourage your kids to try us out. We might not be cool, but the library is!
Allison sends a heartfelt thank you to Los Burritos, Barone’s, Noodles and Starbucks, whose generous contributions help make Late Night Study Hall such a success.