It is quite a challenge to create a library environment that teens might find appealing.
But that's just what officials have tried to do with the creation of a new teen space at the Crofton Community Library.
Starting this week, teen visitors will have their own designated area within the library, featuring beanbag chairs, couches, new carpeting and a power station for their electronic devices. In another week or so, four computers set aside exclusively for teens will be installed, as well as a special screen that will shield the area from the rest of the library.
"It'll just be kind of an area that they can call their own," said library spokeswomen Christine Feldmann.
The name of the teen area, which was selected by popular vote, will be revealed at a public celebration April 10, featuring live music, pizza, a photo booth and raffles.
The improvements cost $17,000 and were paid for in part by donations made to the Anne Arundel County Library Foundation and by a gift of $7,500 from the Greater Crofton Council.
"When we heard we could do something we could afford, we went to town to help them out," said council vice president Torrey Jacobsen, whose group helped get the library built in 2002. "My own kids use the library. Everyone uses it and it needs to be kept up so that it stays usable for everybody."
Ruby Jaby, the manager of the Crofton branch, had felt the facility needed a special, distinct space for teens for some time. On occasion, teens would congregate in the lobby, sitting on the floor, forcing patrons to run a gauntlet of arms and legs on their way into the library. Teens also sometimes settled into spaces in the children's area and they had a tendency to gather around the computers in the middle of the library, disturbing others trying to work.
"Kids love to congregate around the computers, so I was thinking they really need their own area," Jaby said. "I was thinking they need a place after school where they can come and do that."
Teens who participated in a library survey said they wanted a place they could use as a lounge, which is how Jaby came up with the idea for having bean bag chairs. She also wanted furniture that could be moved around, so that people could work together or separately.
Jaby spoke with Jacobsen about the idea, but said the library didn't have the money to create the space. The council then got involved.
Ideally, Feldmann said, every library in the county would have a similar space. But paying for the improvements is always an issue. A teen space will be created in the Odenton branch later this year, but it will be a much more extensive project than the one in Crofton.
So far, the upgrade to the teen room seems to have had the desired effect.
"I like it," said Tyler Adams, 18, of Severn, as he quietly read a book. "It's real comfortable. When you come in, you can look around and find a nice, soft chair."
"It's pretty cool," noted Jayden Bowden, 11, of Crofton, who had plopped down into one of the new beanbag chairs with a book. "I like that we have our own space."