- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - A yell. A few chords playing on a keyboard. The sound of running feet.

It’s not the normal sound one might expect to hear at a library, but in the new teen center of the Monroe County Public Library, it’s the norm.

The teen center - called the Ground Floor - opened last Sunday, and was quieter than staff expected in its first days of use, with an occasional burst of laughter and other noises breaking the silence. They don’t expect it to last.

“I imagine once they get more comfortable, we’ll see some more rambunctiousness,” said Chris Hosler, a community engagement librarian, who focuses on teens.

There’s been no real dedicated space for teens in the library, and Hosler’s been running programs in meeting rooms, which aren’t particularly conducive to drawing young people. With a dedicated area, it opens up the possibility for more than that - impromptu events, crafts and games are all possible, The Herald-Times reported (https://bit.ly/1BU62Ik ).

On Monday, Ryn Keplinger, 17, and Mikaela Harniter, 16, were taking advantage of the free craft supplies, with Keplinger knitting and Harniter making flowers out of duct tape.

“There was no space to do our own thing,” Keplinger said. “I like the teen space, because there’s finally a place for teens to hang out, because there’s no place in Bloomington for teens.”

The space is only open to those between the ages of 12 and 19, though on the second Sunday of each month, the space will be open to all ages. Harniter agreed there needed to be some place for teens to be able to use free from younger kids, parents and other library patrons.

“Everything up there is for adults,” she said nodding toward the library’s second floor, which is home to most of its collection.

The center holds more than just books; there’s a crafting space, a study room, snack area and video games among the more traditional shelves and seating offerings.

Teen librarian Becky Fyolek said it’s been a slow start for the area so far. About 25 people visited the space on its first day, a snowy Sunday, and there was a steady stream of visitors from the time it opened at 3 p.m. on Monday. On Wednesday afternoon, as snow again began to fall outside, there were 12 to 18 kids milling around the Ground Floor. Once more people hear about it, usage likely will increase.

From the start, the space was custom-designed for teenagers, with focus groups from Bloomington High School North providing input for the area, Fyolek said. Everything from the bright green, turquoise and orange color scheme to the modular furniture to the offerings was picked out from these sessions.

“It really is designed for teens by teens,” Fyolek said.

On top of a green chair that looked more like steps than a seat, Kimberly Smith, 16, was weaving a bright blue yarn through a loom. Her goal was to make a scarf.

She found out about the space because she was job shadowing Fyolek last week.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I think as long as teenagers are responsible, it will be great,” she said. So far, her favorite aspect has been the design/craft studio, which not only gives teens a space to create, but also the tools to create with.

Hosler said the goal is for this creativity to continue and for teens to utilize the new space next door, a digital creativity center to continue the projects.

The digital creativity center, known as Level Up, is open to all ages. The area includes a video production studio, complete with green screen, and it requires no previous experience to use. There are also two recording studios - one for acoustic and one for electric music - and workstations for designing, coding and editing. Right now, studios have to be reserved by physically dropping by the library, but Hosler said an online tool should be up soon to help reserve the spaces.

The spaces are part of a third round of renovations that began in 2009. A grand opening celebration will be scheduled at a later date for all the renovations.


Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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