Chapters Makeover

Do you remember my visit to Chapters months ago when I compared their teen space to that of the library? Probably not. That’s okay you can check it out here.

I just wanted to write a little update because the Chapters I visited recently had a major makeover in the children and teen area. I have no idea if other Chapters have already done this, but the new space is AMAZING (minus the fact that I’ve almost been run over at least 3 times by children using the new little cars they can ride around in)

The teen section used to be off the main strip that leads from the door to the back wall. It was rather crammed and you got the impression that there was always someone watching you. It was near the children section but very distinct.

Now they have a HUGE section all to themselves that expands from the centre aisle all the way to the back wall. They have changed the signage that says “teens” on the top of the shelves. It now has a different font and is multi-coloured – very hip. Besides the ample space, the new shelves and signage, they now include bean bag chairs for teens to sit in and enough space for a large group to be there all at once. Incredible, I thought teens were loud, obnoxious, stole things and made out in the stacks???  I don’t really think that, but I’m pretty sure Chapters did.  Oh, and every single time I’ve been in there, the space has been packed, teens were even sitting on the floor.

I’m not so naive to assume that a huge business has taken a queue from libraries and sees the value in giving teens their own space. Rather, they likely have just realized the immense buying power of young adults and want to lure them into buy more books. I’m still glad the space exists for them.

But maybe they are looking at libraries though, because now Chapters is providing programming for children and even a teen book club. They also have a Teen editor page here.

Anyways, I’m not really sure if it’s relevant, or if these changes are indicative of anything, but at the very least it’s a pretty cool upgrade and you should go check it out.

Chapters @ 86 Fanshawe Park Road East, London – (519) 672-6781


Interview with a Children’s Librarian

I met with my dear friend Debra Franke who is a Children’s Librarian here in London a couple weeks ago to discuss school, library topics, etc. I was thinking back to our first assignment on library space and how smaller libraries cater to Young Adults, so I got her to answer some questions dealing with her experience working at a small branch library.

  1. You worked in a small branch library, did you get the opportunity to work with any teens?

 In the small branch libraries, I do find there are often opportunities to work with teens. At one small library where I worked, the youth tended to be mostly tweens, and we often got the best response to programs advertised for ages 8-12 or 8-14. The tweens attended our movie afternoons, gaming programs, and the graphic novels workshops I led for drawing and writing graphic novels. Usually a fairly even number of male and female youth attended the library, but I was pleasantly surprised that a large number of boys attended the graphic novels workshops.

In the slightly larger small library where I have also worked, there tends to be a larger number of teens, many of whom are tweens, and many of whom tend to be approximately 14-15 years old. They come in regularly after school and in the evenings, and they come to do homework, spend time with friends, use the technology, talk to the library staff, and attend library programs (for example, teen gaming nights, music nights, arts and crafts, book clubs, etc.). For them, the library is very much their after-school hang-out, community hub, and social place, and meeting place.
2. In a small library is it usually the Children’s librarian’s responsibility to come up with programming and services for the Young Adult population or some one else’s?

In the libraries where I have worked, the Branch Librarian is also the Children’s Librarian and the Teen Librarian; we look after both the children’s and teen collections, and the children’s and teen programs and services. This means planning unique programs for each individual library according to its local neighborhood’s needs, and also planning programs to take place consistently at all libraries across the city, for example, summer reading programs.

While the Children’s Librarian is also responsible for teen programming, this programming can be done very successfully in collaboration with other library staff, such as library assistants. In one of the libraries where I have worked, all of the staff participate in creating and running programs for the young adult population; in this way, everyone’s strengths, gifts, and interests can be combined through a team-work approach to offer a larger variety of programs for teens.

In addition to the Branch Librarian and other library staff running young adult programs, we also depend on library volunteers who sometimes assist with programs, and community members who collaborate with the library to offer programs to young people in our library meeting spaces.

3. What do you think are some of the limitations of serving the teen population in a smaller library?

I have found that one of the challenges in a smaller library is space. When several young people come into the library together, they often desire a space of their own to sit and talk and read, and they often want space to be on the computers in pairs or small groups. They are looking for a corner of the library to unwind, work on homework projects, have group discussions, socialize, and make plans. The idea of the library as a community hub and social space is definitely alive and well, and when several children, teens, and adults fill a small library, each with their own individual needs, it can prove challenging to find the best balance of physical space that allows each group to engage the activities they most desire.

In a small library, the limited physical space also often means that there is less technology available than at a larger library, for example, a smaller number of public computers and research computers. When the number of computers and physical space is limited, last minute homework projects and social networking needs cannot always be immediately accommodated. However, because of internet technology today, many patrons bring laptops into the library, and many teens access the library website and its electronic catalogue, databases, and homework help from home as well as in the library.

Of course, collections and programming can also be affected by the library’s size. When the physical size of the collection is smaller, it becomes more challenging to ensure that all of the most sought-after books, magazines, DVDs, CDs and other materials are available. This means that staff are required to be intentional about, and dedicated to, excellent collection development and management, successful readers’ advisory and reference interviews, teaching teens about ordering materials from other branches, and planning the library’s space well so that materials are easy-to-find.

In terms of programming in the smaller library, I have found it very helpful to have several conversations with the teens in the small library, to find out what kind of programs they would most enjoy. When there is a smaller number of teens attending a particular library, attendance might tend to be lower, and finding a popular program topic and advertising well (including word of mouth!) can help to increase attendance and success.

4. What do you think is more important for a teen in the public library, Space or Collection?

From my experience, I feel that both are very important and that they are intertwined in different ways; however if I had to choose one, I would say that the Collection is more important. In general, the space is important because teens often use the small library as a place to meet and hang out, and they want a space of their own where they can gather away from the other patrons and staff, and where they can have the room they need for spreading out their belongings, being social, and working on the computers together. In this way, the library as “meeting place” and “social space” is largely what seems to draw the teens in.

However, once the youth physically enter into the library, I feel that the collection becomes extremely important. Making sure the collection holds the key titles that youth are looking for can help to engage them in reading and literacy and programming such as book clubs; maintaining a good collection can help a teen to see the library as a place that is much more than a social space. It also helps teens to find out about popular titles and get excited about reading through ‘word of mouth’: essentially, because their friends are reading it and loving it, they want to read it also. The collection is important in supporting the necessary resources for homework and school projects; a good variety of materials which are placed in easy-to-find places around the library can minimize frustration and maximize excitement and interest in reading, researching, interacting with audio-visual materials, and discussing likes and dislikes.

Because of the growing use of the Internet and the World Wide Web, as well as audio books and electronic databases, more and more teens can be reached before they ever set food in the library. The library’s physical and electronic collection is something that can be well advertised and easy-to-find on a library’s website, making it accessible and visible to teens when they are using the library’s webpage or homework help options from home.

5. Finally, what was your favourite Young Adult book growing up.

I had quite a few books that I loved as a teen, but I’d have to say that my all-time favourite young adult novel was S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I read this book for the first time in Grade 7, and Ponyboy Curtis and Johnny were two characters that I never forgot. Their home lives, friendships, hardships, sadness, and courage were engraved into my heart.  I also loved any and all Judy Blume books, largely because Blume spoke to so many of the questions, emotions, and fears that resonate with so many tweens and teens. I was also a fan of W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind.

Thanks again Debra for being a great mentor and answering these questions!

Library Visit

Teen Annex

On Friday I visited the Teen Annex at the Central Branch of the London Public Library and I was very impressed by what I saw. The Teen Annex is placed on the first floor by the Children’s area and the Little Red Roaster coffee shop. Despite being on the first floor where much of the activity is, the Annex did feel secluded enough to be relatively cool. It was also near the escalators which is great for people watching. Once actually in the Annex, the importance of space becomes very obvious. There are bright colours, a mixture of comfortable lounge areas and tables and chairs. The books are very spaced out so there is a sense of openness and comfortability. There are also computer terminals and more independent seating options. 

There is a good selection of books both new and old, with entire sections devoted to series, non-fiction, graphic novels and language (such as French and Spanish) books. The fiction section is quite large, although most of the books look a little worse for wear. Many books are on display. My only concern for the collection/set-up was that the books that were on display were of such a mixture I found very few that I recognized. Furthermore, the books they did choose to have on display did not actually seem that appealing. If the Teen Librarian had been there I would have asked him/her for some help selecting a book. This brought to my attention the question of reader’s advisory for teens, and whether or not teens feel comfortable with asking for help. Perhaps on my next visit I will ask the librarian about that, as it definitely sparked my interest.

There was also a good selection of teen magazines and multimedia such as CDs and DVDs. I am not surprised that there was such an emphasis put on space, considering some of the dated books, the difficulty in keeping the bestsellers on the shelf, lack of funds, etc. Also, with the OPAC students can easily reserve the books they want without having to browse the shelves. The Teen Annex then becomes a safe and somewhat hip place to hang out, read, study, etc. Overall, it felt very welcoming and trendy, some place I would have definitely hung out as a teenager. It was great to be at the Central Branch where there is such a dedicated space to teens. I am interested in knowing how this differs from smaller branches or rural libraries that do not have the funds, space or community to warrant such a specific space. Obviously all public libraries have young adult patrons so I am very interested in finding out how their needs are met in smaller libraries.

In comparison to my library visit on Friday I decided to check the teen section at Chapters. Obviously there is no comparison as far as collections are concerned. Chapters has a lot more books available, the books are new and glossy, and more are on display on the shelves. However, I was interested in how the other aspects compared.

With regard to space the London Public Library Central Branch came out far ahead. The teen section at Chapters is very crammed and it is in a very high traffic area. However, this might not be the case if compared to smaller libraries where there might be less space. For collections, Chapters had a section for series and graphic novels, but there were no language books and surprisingly no non-fiction (that I could find at least). Besides the shiny new books, the thing that Chapters had that I really appreciated had that the library did not was special sections throughout the store for teens such as “20 books to read before you’re 20”, “teachers choice” and “award winning teen fiction”. These put specific books on display that I felt were well recommended, and it is likely that I would read them before ever going to look through the shelves. This is a good solution for young adults sections if reader’s advisory from a librarian or staff worker is not an appealing option.

Chapters did have a selection of magazines in the teen section as well as a larger selection held with the rest of the magazines. No multimedia were in the teen section, instead these were kept with like items. Likely, simply for space and organization, keeping DVDs and CDs with the young adult books would not be the best idea.

After going to both places I made some conclusions about how I utilize both the library and the big box stores such as Chapters.  I conclude that if I wanted books I would first order them through the Library OPAC. If they were not available and I was in a hurry, I would go to Chapters. If I was not sure what I wanted, I would likely go to Chapters instead of the library, because I prefer to browse covers and I am not comfortable with asking someone to recommend a book. If, however, I wanted a great place to hang out and read, I would go to the library, especially since they have the Little Red Roaster now!