I'm sitting in the Newton Free Library meeting room during a strategic planning session. The first two expert presentations have resounded with the difference between "technology natives" (teens) and "technology immigrants" (adults), and have encouraged our library to take some risks when it comes to reaching young adults. Now they're talking about setting up a savvy, teen-friendly YA space. What's worrying me is that noboby's mentioning the importance of relationship to this generation — and especially relationship with caring adults. So what if the library has a cool coffee hangout and tons of state-of-the-art computers? Listen to the wisdom gleaned in Arizona as described in VOYA magazine:
It's 3 p.m. Like clockwork, the after-school rush begins at Teen Central, Phoenix Public Library's 5,000-square-foot teen space. Hundreds of teens from public, private, and charter schools pour through the door. Some check in with the staff at the desk, while others head to the living room to see what movie is playing today. Still others just want to unwind and play RuneScape® on the Internet with their friends. What keeps these teens--more than 10,000 each month--coming back to Teen Central? It's not just the twenty Internet PCs, the large-screen TV, the surround-sound stereo music, and the loaded vending machines.Those bells and whistles are great, but I'll let you in on a secret: They're not the main reason that Teen Central is so busy. The real reason for its enduring popularity is that it offers a safe, structured environment with friendly staff.Teens are hungry for relationships with hospitable adults who are thrilled to see them. If our library has to choose between spending money on a space or hiring a staff member who loves teens and understands their culture, I'd cast my vote for a person every time.