In an effort to attract more teenagers, the Forest Park Public Library has begun renovations for a “teen room” – a hangout designed for older kids that will feature computers, video games, books, graphic novels and magazines.
Traditionally, the library is meant to be a quiet place, but it is also often used as a social spot for students after school, according to Susan Kunkle, library services manager. Through the construction of a separate teen room, the library is trying to address the needs of a significant population served.
“Some people want to study and read, but there are a lot of kids who want to socialize and talk,” Kunkle said. “It can be hard to find that balance. The teen room will take pressure off of that.”
At the same time, the library hopes to draw in more teenagers. Right now they typically top out around eighth or ninth grade, according to Rodger Brayden, library director. The room under construction in the lower level, which formerly housed the Historical Society of Forest Park, has been designed to offer teens some personal space so they can feel independent.
“You can see there is a lot of space, but it’s an open floor plan,” Brayden said of how the lower level is currently set up. “It wasn’t conducive to allowing teens to have a place they could feel is theirs. Teens need that.”
A bank of windows will still allow for supervision, yet it won’t be “intrusive,” Brayden said.
“Developmentally, it’s important that they have some place where they can be on their own,” Kunkle said.
Generally, Forest Park is in need of more options for places that teens and tweens can safely hang out together, according to Brayden.
“We have more kids than we have spaces in town,” he said. “What can we give youngsters to do that’s constructive?”
Steven Knysch, chairman of the youth commission, agreed there’s not too much in Forest Park for kids in that age group to do.
“They love their parents, but they don’t necessarily want to be at home,” he said. “So if you have that alternate facility where they can all hang out with their friends, it can’t hurt. I think the nice thing about it being a library is that it’s a multi-functional facility.”
The library’s new room, which will mirror the look of a hip café, will feature reading places as well as a booth with seating. There will also be five computers, a TV, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and a number of video games and DVDs. All of the teen series, popular teen books and graphic novels will be moved in the room, too.
“They can work collaboratively for school or sit down and play checkers,” Kunkle said. “There’s going to be a social lean to it.”
A select group of teens has also been helping with some of the design choices, including picking out patterns and colors. At this stage of the game, some of the infrastructure work has been started, but the project will not likely be completed until next year.
The library also plans to renovate other parts of the building, too. They are going to double the total number of computers (five more in the teen room and six additional public access computers on the first level), add more DVD shelving and comfortable furniture, a new reference desk and modifications to the front desk. The total project, including the teen room, will cost around $150,000.