The Block Island Times
http://block-island.villagesoup.com/p/1192913

Library creates new teen space

By Lily O'Gara | Jun 06, 2014
Photo by: Kari Curtis Children's Librarian Allison Dodge, left, and Director Kristin Baumann sit in the newly created teen room at the Island Free Library.

The adult computer room at the Island Free Library is getting a makeover.

Though there is no definitive name for the new space, the library staff is calling it the “teen room.” Director Kristin Baumann said that she and her staff have been “rethinking space” for quite some time, and decided that the library needed a place for teens to gather.

“We are their home, their second home,” Children’s Librarian Allison Dodge, who has been collaborating on the project with Baumann, said. “It just makes sense to open up a teen room. It’s something that’s just been nagging us.”

The library staff had several criteria in mind when deciding where to create the space. First, Baumann said, the room had to be located close to librarian assistance and monitoring, but also far enough away from the children’s section so as to give the teens a sense of having their own area. The room also had to be in an area where the teens could collaborate with one another comfortably and talk a bit louder. Baumann also said that she did not want to stick the kids in the basement and that there needed to be sunlight.

For all of these reasons, the staff decided to revamp the adult computer room. One counter of computers was relocated to make way for the young adult collection, and new furniture is on its way as well.

The room is still a work in progress, and Baumann said there are endless possibilities. She would love to have a messaging area, such as a Post-It or chalkboard wall, where teens could leave notes for one another. A flat screen TV for movie nights and a 3-D printer are also wish list items.

“They really do have to own it,” Dodge said of the town’s teens. “They have to be invested in it and care about it, and then they are going to use it.”

There are still several computers in the room that adults will be able to use during the day, when teens are working or in school, and those computers that were removed were relocated upstairs to the nonfiction section and down to the basement.

“It’s the perfect room for multi-use,” Baumann said, noting that the room will not be restricted to teens only.

The room will be used as what Baumann called a “makerspace,” which simply means a collaborative community space with tools. According to Baumann, this concept is “hot in the library world right now.” This particular makerspace will be used to foster digital literacy.

Software and equipment will be purchased to further this endeavor, and Baumann is hoping to participate in the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, a six-day institute in July sponsored by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and held at the URI CCE-Feinstein Campus in downtown Providence. The institute will focus on “innovative teaching and learning with digital media texts, tools and technologies,” according to its website. Baumann said that the institute will provide staff with valuable insight and training, and better prepare them to have meaningful programming and conversations with teens about internet safety, legitimate sourcing and creating online and multimedia content.

“We’ve always been ahead of the tech game,” Baumann said, “and this is just one way to keep that reputation.”

Baumann has also started working with Sherilyn Brown, Education Director for the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, in order to further develop programming.

The library recently received a private memorial donation in memory of a family’s child who would have now been a teen. This donation, Baumann said, has really given the new room a jumpstart.

However, more funds are needed to purchase the digital literacy equipment. The library is partnering with the island’s after-school theater group, Drama 911, to host a short film festival at the Oceanwest Theater on June 14. Baumann expects the room to be completed (or nearly completed) in September, at which time there will be an opening reception.

Baumann said that the library staff and the community have been supportive of this new project.

“It’s always a team effort,” Baumann said.

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