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Friends of the Libraries: Make libraries the new teen hangout

September 04, 2013|By Mary Ellen Goddard

When we talk about expanding our public library square footage in Costa Mesa, we need to consider the use to which this extra space might be put. A long underserved age group nationally is teens aged 13 to 18. Teen areas are being created in new and old facilities, often in response to a number of studies that have been done in the past 10 or 15 years. Surveys have shown that young adults are a growing population in libraries. An article by Kimberly Bolan, "The Need for Teen Spaces in Public Libraries," quotes a Harris Poll saying teens would go to the library more often "if there was a space just for teens."

Patrick Jones and Joel Shoemaker apply customer service theory and technique to serving this unique population in their book, "Do It Right! Best Practices for Serving Young Adults in School and Public Libraries." Jones and Shoemaker offer "tips, techniques and examples of how to turn teenagers into 'raving fans' of the public library." They also point out that the Internet, coupled with other changes in society, requires new approaches in marketing.

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A 2004 study, by Julie Spielberger, Carol Horton, Robert Halpern and Lisa Michels for Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, is "New on the Shelf: Teens in the Library." It mentions the Public Libraries As Partners in Youth Development (PLPYD) Initiative, a 1999 program designed to "support the development of innovative models for public library systems to provide high quality educational enrichment and career development programs for underserved low-income teenagers and children." Libraries were chosen for this task because they are safe, comfortable and affordable places to do homework, use computers and socialize after school. "In turn, parents, communities, and policymakers increasingly view public libraries as part of a network of supports for youth that includes schools, churches, parks and recreation centers, museums, and youth-serving organizations."

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