Under Construction: Developing the Teen Zone at West Windsor Branch

All libraries have spaces. Some spaces are cozy, where patrons can curl up in a comfy chair to read a book or flip through the past three months of Cosmo, Time or Sports Illustrated. Some are loud and energetic, where Youth Services Librarians read to preschoolers and teach them to dance and sing silly songs. Other spaces are all about productivity, where patrons can log on to the internet, draft an interview-winning résumé and cover letter combo, or even apply for a job online. There are the quiet spaces – growing ever rarer in the modern public library as community center – where serious studying, and a smidgeon of procrastination, gets done. And then, there is the space for teens.

Not every library has a space dedicated for teens and not all are alike. Some are small, quiet spaces. Some are large and noisy. West Windsor Branch now has something in the middle – not too small and not too big; definitely not quiet, but not noisy either. It is just right.

Five years ago, the Teen Space was a smallish area – a 15’ x 12’ nook across from the Circulation Desk, behind the music CDs, furnished with a low round table, an area rug, and a couple of well-loved rocking chairs. The YA Librarian (that would be me, your trusty narrator) moved the YA graphic novel and manga collections, as well as the teen magazines, into the Space. With the help of the Friends of the West Windsor Library, the Space was outfitted with a sectional sofa from Pottery Barn Teen. The revamped Teen Space was a small space, perfect for reading a stack of graphic novels or magazines. A great space for a few at a time; more than four or five teens and it felt like the 5:16 pm Express NJ Transit train from Penn Station – standing room only!

Teens do not complain. Really, they do not. Unless you know them – then they say anything. By the fourth Teen Friends meeting last year, they felt comfortable enough to tell me that, while the Teen Space was nice, it just was not big enough. There was no room to study or work in a small group; adults seemed to corner the market on the study carrels and tables. And, their materials were all over the library. They said “we don’t feel like there’s space for us.” So, I took them on a field trip out of the Activity Room and into The Library. I turned it over to them – the building is not getting any bigger, so where do you think we can carve out a better space for you?

I love these kids. They are smart. And funny. And, in the midst of a complaint, when many teens would sheepishly say “I dunno,” they walked around and looked at what we had to work with. It was not much, but with a little guidance and more than a few “no’s” from me, we put together a plan. I told them that there is no guarantee, that our plan had to be approved by many and, even if approved, it could take a while because it was a pretty big move. By the fall of 2013, other changes were on the horizon that complemented our plan. It made sense to rearrange the library, not just for the teens but for all patrons and staff.

On a not-quite-spring March morning, the “muscle” arrived for the primary move. Maintenance staff extraordinaire Bob and Bill moved study carrels, tables, chairs and even bookshelves, creating the new Teen Zone. The expanded Teen Zone is a bit more than double the old space – the area is intended to support the academic and social pursuits of library-using teens. The Teen Zone has four study carrels, two tables, the sectional sofa and round table from the original space, magazines, CliffsNotes, math textbooks from the West Windsor-Plainsboro School District, new YA books, and games. Okay, the games have not made their way into the space yet, but it is “under construction” and they will be there before the Summer Reading Program begins in late June. Another part that is still a work in progress is flipping the YA fiction and Adult/YA Reference collections, and moving the manga collection over, so that nearly all YA materials will be directly adjacent to the Teen Zone (and reference materials will be closer to the Reference Desk!).

We hope that teens feel welcome in their new space at the West Windsor Branch.

For adults who want more information on why having dedicated space for teens in a library is important, read YALSA’s National Teen Space Guidelines

- Carolyn, West Windsor Branch


  1. Cool Stuff ! thank for that information . i bookmarked this blog . keep updating


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