Teen spaces are growing in popularity as libraries continue to evolve. They are great spaces for teens to maintain a little independence while also being in a controlled and supervised environment. Recently I’ve had the privilege of working with several great libraries to help them renovate or construct their new spaces. And after lots of long discussions and plenty of research, here are a few key things to consider including on your next library project.
Creative Furniture Groupings
One of the most frequent requests I get when working with library directors and their teams are booth seating for the teen areas. But we try to take this a step further by designing a space with multiple furniture groupings (see Thonet Moss 3 collection above) to appeal to as many different groups as possible. Booths are great and you can also use individual booth carrels for individual use. We’ve had these made using traditional systems furniture with modular seating. Beautiful finished product. Study tables are still great but use fewer of them. Adding modular seating groups are great too and it’s always a good idea to make furniture mobile so that teens can group as many or as few together as they need. That having been said, make sure you double check with your library clients as some do NOT prefer for the pieces to be mobile.
Power Power and more Power
With the use of tablets, cell phones and laptops increasing exponentially these days, the best possible thing a designer can add to their space plan is power in as many locations as possible. This is super easy in new construction but a bit trickier in a renovation. In that case, make sure to maximize the use of existing power to the best of your ability. Add power to all of your furniture pieces and locate pieces that don’t require power near outlets wherever possible. You can add power grommets now with standard plug recepticles as well as with USB data outlets. If you’re not sure about your options, discuss them with your furniture rep. They can give you all the intel you need to make informed decisions that will make your newly designed space adequately functional.
Wide Open Spaces
Another request (well more of a complaint actually) we get is the amount of visibility and security there is or is not in the teen areas. Let’s face it, teens are teens and sometimes they “get into mischief” as my 8-year-old would say. Part of the point to creating these unique spaces for teens is to give them a supervised and safe space to gather and learn. One of the best ways to achieve this is to make sure they have the openness and visibility required to maintain that supervision. But from an aesthetic angle, the openness is also greatly desired to achieve a light and airy atmosphere. Openness can be achieved by locating the teen space near a help desk or the circulation desk and by eliminating holes or dark spaces in your space plan. Exposed ceilings and windows can also be added to maintain an open feel to the space.
While open spaces are just smart design for the teen areas in your plan, it is also wise to give them a little independence. Naturally this is something teens covet and it can be supplied without compromising their safety. Mostly they need to feel like their space is designated just for them. They don’t want or need to share a space with children or adults. Their space needs to feel like their own individual space. The furniture groupings come into play tremendously here as well as good signage, desired color schemes and maybe even ceiling details like the above Ditto product from 3form, ceiling clouds or multiple soffits that help make the space it’s own. While theming isn’t always necessary, you can certainly add edgier fonts for signs and fun color combinations to draw them in. Be creative, use your imagination and when all else fails, ask a few teens in the community what THEY might want to see.
Working with youth spaces, whether in a library, church or school, is one of my favorite types of projects. The room for creativity is endless and extends as far as your budget and imagination will take you. Make teen spaces in your library projects fun and inviting and your teen population will grow. And that can only lead to wonderful things for our future generations.