I recently read an article in Focus on Indiana Libraries that discussed The Third Place, a teen library that is part of the Eckhart Public Library. The building, which is down the road from the main library, was refurbished and donated to EPL with the stipulation that it be used solely for teen services.
While I am a big proponent of having separate teen spaces in libraries, parts of The Third Place’s setup concern me. EPL Teen Services Supervisor Jamie Long says that “anyone, regardless of age, is permitted to come in [to the teen library] and check out materials” (Long 8). However, “If patrons are not of grades 6-12 and are not accompanying a teen, they are asked to limit their stay to 15 minutes” (Long 8). This policy seems discriminatory against adult patrons who are looking for young adult books, who may feel rushed when browsing, or who may avoid the teen library altogether because they are “too old.” By creating a separate building exclusively for teens, is EPL limiting access to the collections that building houses?
The library is supposed to be a safe, welcoming place for all members of the community. It was this sentiment that led to the creation of separate teen spaces in hundreds of libraries. However, in our efforts to provide spaces for everybody, we must make sure we do not go too far in the opposite direction, limiting access to certain spaces or services based on age or other factors. I’m not saying adults should be allowed to use the teen computer lab when there’s a separate adult lab, or that adults should be encouraged to lounge in teen seating areas; but when it comes to accessing library collections, patrons should not be given a limited amount of time to browse or encouraged to make their selections quickly (unless the library is closing).
Maybe I’m overreacting, but as an adult reader of teen books, I would feel off-put and unwelcome if someone told me to limit my stay in the teen library because I’m not a teen. And what about teachers who are trying to select books for reading lists, or aunts or uncles looking for recommendations for their nieces or nephews? I definitely think it’s important for teens to feel welcome and have their own space; but I think we need to make sure that everyone feels welcome to access all of the library’s collections.
Long, Jamie. “The Third Place: A Teen Library.” Focus on Indiana Libraries 7.7 (July 2013): 8-9. Web. Accessed 9 July 2013. http://www.ilfonline.org/clientuploads/July%202013%20Focus.pdf.