Somerville Library Creates Gathering Space for Teens

The first floor former audiovisual room at the Somerville Central Library is getting a major facelift this summer as it gets transformed into a room dedicated to teenagers. The old carpeting, harsh lighting and 1970s orange decor are getting torn out in favor of more modern, energy efficient fixtures that will help create a welcoming space for Somerville teens to work and play.

“We really felt like we needed a dedicated space for teens,” said Maria Carpenter, the Somerville director of libraries. “And they were really excited about. They wanted it.”

After observing teens crammed into any available space on the library’s second floor, Carpenter decided that teens needed their own area in the building. Many Somerville teens use the library to work on group projects and the quiet second floor environment wasn’t conducive to this. Carpenter also wants to create a safe space where teens can hang out and attend programming geared to their age group.

“It’s important for teens to have a space where they can be as loud or quiet as they want,” said Carpenter. She said because teens have been consulted on how the space will be used, they will have a sense of ownership over it, leading them to learn better through its many functions.

The library’s Teen Advisory Board, which has 10 members, has indicated that it would love to see more programs geared to teens. To that end, the library is partnering with others in the community on things like arts literacy, creative writing workshops and after-school tutoring.

“When it opens in the fall, it will be a shell and the teens will help develop the space,” Carpenter said. “We want to push out the boundaries of what a teen library space can be.”

One of the library’s summer student employees, Zoe Blickenderfer, who has been coming to the library for as long as she can remember and describes it as a second home, has been helping to develop the new space.

Working at the library for the summer is “such a fun way to get involved with something that’s been such an important part of my life,” Blickenderfer said.

A self-described bookworm, Blickenderfer has fond memories of participating in the library’s youth book club where she was able to meet authors and talk to like-minded kids. But as Blickenderfer got older, she found the library lacking in space to work on group projects for school or even just to hang out with friends.

“It’s tough to work in groups upstairs because there’s not enough space,” Blickenderfer said. “It’s really great that there’s going to be a place for people to work together. The safe space for teens will encourage them to hang out. It’s nice that it would be so interdisciplinary with attention brought to all age groups.”

The new space will have about 10 workstations with computers, tables for collaborative work and of course, books. There will also be someone working in a youth services position to help better connect the children’s and teen departments.

Blickenderfer is off to the University of Pennsylvannia in the fall where she hopes to major in urban studies, but she says her sister, a sophomore in high school, is really looking forward to using the new space.

“She’s admired other libraries’ teen space,” Blickenderfer said. “She’s looking forward to having a place to go much closer to home. She and her friends will love it.”

What They’re Reading

I’m always looking for new and interesting books to put on my reading list, so I asked Carpenter and Blickenderfer what they’ve been enjoying lately.

Carpenter: Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Carpenter said the book, which focuses on three generations of mothers in China, is very interesting and has taught her a lot about China during various time periods and the roles women played throughout history in that country. She added that she saw the play based on the book at the American Repertory Theater in Harvard Square.

Carpenter also said she’s really looking forward to reading It’s Raining Fish and Spiders by Meteorologist Bill Evans, who recently participated in an event at the library.

Blickenderfer: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Blickenderfer said that after years as a dedicated fiction reader, she’s branching out into the world of nonfiction. She said that Blink was actually on the list of books she could have read for her AP psychology class, but that she’s enjoying it much more now without papers to write and that it’s given her a new appreciation for nonfiction.

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