Chapter 9: On Making a Teen Space, Part 1

Starting from scratch is hard, but if done right… well. I won’t know until maybe a year’s time if I really did do it right.

Hopefully among some other reasons (quieting my usual self-deprecating voice here, because Lord, imposter syndrome to the max), I was mainly hired to build up a teen tech studio, which has now been just dubbed The Studio, in the Main Library.

I’m 6 months into my position, and its been one heck of a ride. I wanted to chronicle my efforts into building up The Studio, but between actually building it up and my personal life, I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it much.

Soft opening is in 9 days.

What better time to start than now?

tl;dr – my efforts up until this point have been all over the place, between working across departments, to building up a base of regularly attending teens. 1400+ words, but with pics, so that’s cool right??

  • 6 months until soft opening:
    • I just started. I’m emotional. I’m also only 30 minutes away from Miami, and I feel like I’m in a foreign country. I miss my kids. I question myself constantly. I need to write to remember why I took this opportunity in the first place. See this post here.
    • Teen books are crammed into a corner by the children’s books. Not a great way to have a teen space.
    • They tell me The Studio will be on the first floor, surrounded by glass windows. Furniture has already been purchased; much of it is bulky, but most have wheels. I’m cringing (inwardly and outwardly and for a good amount of time) that I didn’t get to have any say, but the furniture is nice and new.
      • But there’s no space for the books with the furniture. I run off to a corner and inwardly weep.
  • 5 months and a half untils of soft opening:
    • I tell my boss its a bit slow for me. I’m not used to it. I ask her about funding for programs; she says go for it – that the Friends will be supportive because no one has used funding for teen programs since my predecessor left. I cringe. I ask about teens who come in, she gives me a folder with old Teen Advisory Board names and the TAB president, and is encouraging. I still cringe.
    • My friend and colleague in our makerspace has some teens who volunteer, but why would they come out to some programs when they have their stuff in the makerspace (all ages)? I question my position.
    • I submit requests to the Friends. They are all for it. I get my Giant Jenga, and brand new Monopoly and Scrabble and Uno and shrink-wrapped games, and it’s looking pretty spiffy. I also manage to swing a purchase of a pretty awesome hot-air popcorn maker for fresh popcorn on movie nights.
    • A trickle of volunteers come in. I’m feeling anxious, so together, we build a Little (indoor) Free Library, to giveaway from of the Friends’ books that aren’t selling. (Victory!)
  • 5 months until soft opening:
    • I begin implementation of some experimental, low-intensity programs for teens: board game nights, movie nights with popcorn, gaming afternoons on the WiiU that I inherited. 3 programs a week. I was worried the stuff wouldn’t arrive in time, but it does.
    • I’m lucky. The TAB president has come through and continues to come to Friends’ meetings; there are other students (two or three) who trickle in who need community service hours for graduation. The volunteers from the makerspace come in. A parent brings in her son, she’s new to town, and he loves anime. A couple of student workers are teenagers. I have 10 kids in my first board game night; the same 10 come in for my Teen Advisory Board meeting.
    • Giant Jenga crashes on the third floor tables. It’s epic.
      (note the panels in the back. Thats important).
    • Popcorn machine works awesome.
    • An Anti-Valentine’s Day program also goes well. Buttons galore!


    • A colleague (and now good friend!) is rearranging the collection third floor; I’m part of a team that is getting to reimagine our flagship library, and we’re changing stuff up. She tells me the teen books can fit in the third floor, and have a chance to breathe and expand. It’s prime real estate, right smack in your face in front of the stairs. I tell her I’m game, but I wonder how on earth am I going to get teens to get to their books from the first floor to the third floor?
  • 4 months until soft opening:
    • …and the volunteers move their entire collection themselves.  More of them are coming in, and others are dropping off. That happens with teenagers, I try and remind myself. The reason why I need to keep an open mind, and an open volunteer schedule, is because teens are not beholden to themselves — their schedule is set by a caregiver if they are in a blessed situation to have one; they have clubs, tests, family obligations. But in total, I’m up to 15 new teen faces coming in and out, and more on the way.

    • One volunteer tells me, as she labels the end-panels, with vinyl chalkboard that I manage to get budgeted in: “This is cool. I’ve never built my own library before.”
    • Programs continue to go well. I officially get permission to label the third floor teen area as The Lounge, a designated spill-over area for kids from The Studio.
      • still wondering how I’m going to get them to travel between two floors.
      • also wondering now about the windows in the first floor space, and them being stuck in a fish-bowl, day-in and day-out.
  • 3 months until soft opening:
    • More volunteers. They mess up some shifting in the Children’s Services area, which is now free to expand thanks to some changes. I think about creating a more firm schedule for them, but back off of it.
    • I’m going back and forth with LIT about laptops and other software needs. I’m going back and forth with Marketing. Everyone has opinions, great input, and duties, and huge priorities, and I’m wondering how I can pull it all together for this space to open.
      • I remind myself that it’s my duty and priority to do so.
    • Freaking out about Teen Tech Week. Decide to go all out and have a program every day of the week, despite having no laptops or designated computers that can do anything remotely techy. Still: Squishy Circuits, virtual reality, recording an original free style song, and going analog with painting.
    • I’m crazy. I have only between 3 – 7 attendees each time, but I call it a success because I manage to entertain a teen who is only visiting for that week from Canada. He says he wishes he could stay, and even if he was the only one who managed to attend all of my programs throughout the week, I feel like his stay in Ft Lauderdale was made better because of those programs.
    • My colleague wants to expand the makerspace and move into an empty storage area in the 3rd floor. The space behind the panels in the top of picture above.
      • Stop. Pause. What, excuse me? That space can be claimed? No, it’s mine. You can have my fishbowl on the 1st floor.
    • I write a proposal in the wee hours of the morning on my birthday. Its three pages long about why exactly the teen stuff should all be on one floor, and that floor is the third floor. I pitch. I pitch a lot. My boss approves; my Interim Director approves, and I’m wiping the sweat off of my brow. (Victory!)
  • 2 months
    • Electricity needs to be installed in the new The Studio. I feel like a winner, but because the area was storage, lots of stuff needs to be removed. Lots of stuff is also historical, including some bricks from Idontknowwhatbuilding, and a big old piano, a lawn-mower, and tables. There’s also a pew? I think? from a courthouse. Its cool, but its in my way.
    • There’s also no data wiring.
    • I need to move up the equipment that I ordered. I also need to unbox a bunch of it, still. Where does the time go?
    • I pitch, and pitch, and somewhere someone hears me, and desktops that have been sitting in boxes ready to go are finally deployed. and they’re beautful. 5 27inch iMacs, 2 touchscreen Dell desktops.
      • Downside? Need licensing for Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office. Purchasing is backed up due to new procedures and I’m not the only one ordering stuff.
  • 1 month
    • Electricians are working their magic. Plug are everywhere in the floor, I just need plates to cover them up. Plugs are also now available where the TV should go and where the soundbooth should go.
    • Peeps from Facilities works their magic empties out the heavier stuff from the room; between leaks and trying to open up other buildings, I’m not too high on the totem pole; I let them know I’m eternally grateful. They switch out the end panels that were pictured above and have now placed temporary panels that are tinted and give the space a new life.

      • Still, I’m not sold on the yellowing of the frames; time to get a quote from a vendor.
    • Some furniture is moved up, and its scattered everywhere and looks hilariously messy.
    • But teens are using The Studio when there are programs. Its a bit surreal.
    • …and in the pouring rain, they somehow make an appearance.
  • Two weeks til opening:
    • it hasn’t hit me yet. Electricians give me switches to turn the lights on and off in the room – which doesn’t sound like much, but still required work because the entire lighting of the floor was linked to each other. I’m dancing in victory for this one, but also find out track lighting can’t be mounted to the ceiling.
      • searching for alternatives for mood lighting.
  • Now, 9 days til opening:
    • Freaking out immensely
    • Finalizing opening procedures, closing procedures, registration packets. Still need to finalize an online component — how come I haven’t taken care of that before?! THERE’S STILL STUFF I NEED TO ORDER OMG.
      • side note: I hate bean bags. They’re gross. They lose their shape. They somehow retain the smell of teen spirit. And yet, they keep asking for the darn things. I’m caving and researching which bean bags to order.
    • Electricians install plugs for a TV and a cool interactive wall art piece, which I found out got turned down today (no big deal, there are alternatives out there). Still, holes in the wall that need to be patched, among everything that is still haphazardly there.
    • Freaking out immensely. Did I say that already?
    • Where did the time go?



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