Tuesday, September 05, 2006

No More Teen Space

Consider all the concerned blog posts you've probably read about attracting teens and creating teen-friendly places @ your library. (If you haven't read any, consider yourself lucky, but trust me, they're out there.) Everything from video-gaming to free acne medication has been suggested.

Here, for example, is yet another article about a public library creating a new space for teens, or as they're occasionally called, "young adults." (Perhaps the rest of us are really just "old children.")

Don't teens have enough space? I get tired of these kids today, with the clothes and the hair and the yeah-yeah music. They're everywhere! And maybe teens don't want to hang out at the library. I hate to break it to you earnest librarians, but the library isn't cool, and it never will be. You probably spent a lot of time hanging out at the library as a teen, but then you're a big geek, that's why you're a librarian.

Where do the teens hang out? For those who have been living under a rock and haven't heard of the Temple U. professor working on a book about Starbucks, take a look at this article from Salon about teens hanging out at Starbucks. Why Starbucks? They go there to feel grown up. The prof claims that Starbucks "provides them a place where for a few bucks they can stay as long as they like without being hassled. And since it's not overtly marketed to kids, it feels more cultured than going to a fast food chain."

And the kids want to be pathetic coffee-guzzlers who stumble around in the morning and annoy everyone by claiming they can't function without their caffeine--just like you!

"For the kids at their school who do drink coffee every day, there's no stigma to being addicted. On the contrary, teens practically boast about needing their coffee fix, the girls say." That probably sounds like some of your colleagues.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be grown up, too. (Of course, as I grownup I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, because librarian sure ain't it.) The prof's work on Starbucks suggests that kids want to be grown up. So why the spaces for teens?

I think libraries should take into account the "I wanna be treated like a grownup factor." Right now libraries try to focus on the young part of "young adult," but why not focus on the adult part. Provide some really expensive coffee and a lounge for everyone to hang out in, not just teens. Play some of that crappy music they play at Starbucks really loudly. Get some T-mobile wifi. And ignore them. That's all they want.

Quit coddling these kids. They won't love you for it.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you. I have noticed a real attempt to segregate people by age in libraries, which means that the hapless individual who accidentally sits in the wrong place is forcibly moved. I think that if people were left alone in comfortable environments (I am not enthused about backround music - it would have to be unobtrusive)then they would be more inclined to stay peacefully in the library and there would be less intergenerational strife. The problem is that too many youth librarians treat teens like lab rats instead of future adults and potential wage-earners.

-yet another Brooklyn librarian

Bob H. said...

That's exactly what they are planning for the new branch in our system - a cafe with couches and background music...even worse, it'll be attached to a mall.

I'd LOVE to work there :-)

Erika said...

You're spot on, but teen spaces are still a good idea, in my book. It's like how everybody in 5th grade read 16 Magazine when I was a kidling.

The teen zone makes the pre-teens feel grownup. The snobby teens can thereby feel grownup by venturing into the normal stacks.

And as long as the librarians avoid too much militant oversight -- while keeping the teen zone from somehow becoming a pre-teen pickup joint for creepazoids, people appreciate the options.