It's All About the Books: Staff Notes from the Downtown Library's Teen Center
It’s easy to walk past the Teen Center at the Downtown Library and see teens playing on the computer, crafting, hanging out with friends … and to think, “do any of them actually read?” The resounding answer to that question is YES!
Books play a huge role in the lives of teens, as in all stages of our lives. For many of the teens we work with, reading is very personal. It is an escape and a comfort. But finding time to read isn’t always easy. Between reading for school, friends, and other responsibilities, finding time to read just for themselves can be difficult.
Over the summer I had many conversations with teens who claimed, “I used to read all the time but I don’t anymore” or “I’m not a reader.” Teens who signed up for Summer Reading could even get a free book to keep – but some said “no thanks.”
It can be easy to think that these teens aren’t readers but instead I like to think they just haven’t found the right book at the right time. Often times I get to know these “non-readers” and a book will start to come to mind. Over the summer, one frequent teen visitor was adamant that there wasn’t a book among our free choices that they would like. Then I handed them “Moonstruck,” a graphic novel about queer centaurs and werewolves who work in a coffee shop (it’s pretty awesome, you should read it too). They were hooked. I found them later taking photos of pages to sending to friends.
It of course became one of the most demanded give-away books and the holds queue for our library copy grew too. Because the thing about teens is that when they like a book, they tell their friends. I will be on the desk recommending a book to a teen and another teen will jump in and start recommending books. I’ve had times where I see teens who don’t know each other, start bonding over books in the stacks. One of our more prolific YA (Young Adult) readers is pretty much a librarian in training, who has been a great resource for recommendations when I can’t seem to find the right book.
If you’ve been near the checkout desk, you’ve probably seen that teen trying to fit just one more book into their already book filled bag. But whether it’s a kid who is always reading, or a kid who didn’t identify as a reader, all they need is that right book at the right time -- and having book loving staff and teens in the teen room makes a world a difference.
Not every teen will come to the desk for book recommendations, so keeping the collection fresh and appealing is so important. With all the redesign of the Teen Center, there has been a huge effort to make the book stacks more inviting. The big computer desk that once blocked the shelves is now gone and wow, does it make a huge difference. Now the stack-end displays are more visible and the shelves are more open and inviting for browsing. We’ve also bought lots of book holders to put more books on display face-out. (We say don’t judge a book by its cover, but ... we all do!)
Our next step is to start posting teen-written “shelf talker” review cards, so even when teens aren’t there in person to recommend books, their voices are still there. Because, at the end of the day, it’s all about making sure teens find the book for them. Whether this is the tenth book in their giant pile, or the first book they’ve read in a while, we’re all about making that connection!