GUEST RESPONSE EDITORIAL: What library is doing for teens and kids

By on May 28, 2013
D. Gifford watches over youth wing from her office. (Jake Nichols)

D. Gifford watches over youth wing from her office. (Jake Nichols)

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Kids come to the library after school for a variety of reasons, and by observing the after-school crowd, this immediately becomes apparent. On any given afternoon you’ll see: kids with tutors, kids engaging with each other, doing homework, playing Minecraft, running around outside, winding down after school, etc. We absolutely encourage kids to “hang out” at the library because “hanging out” generally translates to them engaging in some type of learning experience either through each other or with the staff.

The new wing has made many things possible. We see more teens in the space now that they have their own dedicated area. We encourage them to create their own clubs which use the Youth Auditorium as a meeting space. The amount and diversity of activities taking place in the wing is astounding. At any given time after school, there might be 100 patrons in the space doing 15 different things.

The study rooms provide a quiet space for patrons to escape to – to collaborate on a project or use the library’s software to create and edit videos and music. The Early Literacy Room has been fantastic for our youngest patrons to play, learn and engage with each other. The Youth Auditorium is a space for everything from storytimes to Teen Clubs. The computers and gaming systems are great for both singular use and group collaborations. Since the Youth Wing is separate from the Main Library, we’ve been able to allow talking.

Many parents have shared their appreciation of this, as it makes it easier to bring young children without fear or worry. This policy also allows children to feel welcome in the space. With the mobility of most things in the space, we’ve been able to observe and understand patron use/needs, and we’ve been able to react to requests to keep the space  accessible and dynamic. We’ve been open almost a year, and we continue to try to make it as user friendly as possible.

I think kids have always been and will always be on a constant quest to learn/explore/create/understand the world around them. I also think it has always been the case that some kids will do this by reading, while some will touch, play, observe.

Something I talk about all the time is kids are our future. I think from the outside it’s easy for people to not take youth services as seriously as the other areas of the library. It’s all just reading short books and playing with kids, right? But I’ve always advocated that our children not only will dictate the future of our society, but will become decision-makers and taxpayers; and if they do not find value in a library, things would be really bleak for us!

I absolutely think the kids who come in here appreciate and love the space. We’re always finding new ways to connect with non-users, and we try to fulfill all of their needs that fall under the scope of our mission. Offhand, I can think of countless examples of positive feedback from the kids regarding the new wing, so I feel like we’re on the right track to actualizing our vision of the space.

— D. Gifford

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