Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Putting the “Teen” in Your Teen Space

I’m a big fan of teen buy in.  When teens feel that they are a part of your teen programming, including your teen spaces, they are invested.  Invested means they are more likely to take care of the space because it is now their space. Invested means they feel welcomed and invited, which is how we want them to feel.  So how can we help teens become a part of our library teen space? By getting them involved in decorating the space.

This is the artwork of Tim James, a former teen patron and now employee at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio. He is 17, and obtained a G.E.D. this summer after having been home-educated.  He became involved in the library initially because of our Anime Club.  We had an Anime Art Contest which he won and then he did some graphics for the teen section of the website as a volunteer.  Last summer he applied for a job at the library and now works here 18 hours a week doing mostly technology related work.  We have a large amount of digital signage now and he uses a program called “Flypaper” to create much of the content for us.  He also helps with Anime Club, Video Game Club, Teen Advisory Group, selection of video games for circulation, selection of Anime for circulation, some graphic design and will be teaching teens a class on the photo editor Gimp (like a free version of Photoshop) for Teen Tech Week in March.  Teens have a tremendous amount of talent, we should be giving them a platform to share it.

At the most basic level, if money is tight and you want to get something up ASAP, you can simply take pictures of your teens in your teen area and at your programs and use them to decorate the walsl.  If you have a camera (or a camera phone) and a color printer, you have everything you need. You can do straightforward pics or use things like Wordfoto, PhotoBooth and Diptic (all iPhone apps) to create more unique photos. You can also use the free online program Picnik (sadly soon to be going away) or Gimp (very complicated) to manipulate your photos and give them that little something extra.

You can upload photos to make collages or include teen pics in your homemade RA posters.  Don’t just tell them the library is fun – show them! Make a visual statement to an audience that is very visually oriented.

Use your teens to make fun end cap signage (WordFoto)

Have your teens write poetry and create artwork similar to the signs that are so popular right now in various stores
You can use a variety of tools, including the Comic Book app, to create GN looking posters with your teens
You can use your teens – or have them create them – to make bookmarks

But, you don’t have to do all the work yourself.  You can get teens involved in creating art for your teen space.  They can do any of the projects above or you can allow them to create art on their own and simply display it in your teen area.  There are a variety of ways you can display artwork in your teen area at little cost.

At the most basic level, you can use wood strips and clips to create an easy to change out display space.


At a slightly greater cost, you can create a display space that packs more visual punch using a wide variety of clip boards.


Or you could take it up another notch (in both cost and time) and have teens create original tiles to make mosaic table tops or benches. Many towns now have places where you can paint your own ceramics and they fire them in the Kiln for you; contact yours to see if they will work with you at a reasonable price.


 If you are really daring, you can allow the teens to paint a mural.

Whatever situation you are in, you can find creative ways to utilize and nurture your teens creative talents and make your teen space rock!

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