When Khadeja Lellouchi was helping plan the Northeast Regional Library’s new teenager-only area, she knew she wanted to create a safe and welcoming space.
Serving on the library’s teen panel, she and others gave input on the space’s furniture, supplies and other activities that could be hosted there. They even thought of a life-size cardboard cutout of Jungkook, breakout star from the South Korean boy band BTS.
Open in December, the library’s Everything Teen Center is meant to give teens 12-19 their own space in the library. It features movable couches so visitors can arrange the room for doing homework or socializing (as long as they don’t get too loud).
“Studies have shown teens respond really well to having a space that’s theirs,” said Peter Lehu, regional librarian. “A lot of people go to libraries as children then stop going for a while, then come back as adults and rediscover it. But for teens, the library is not always an appealing place.”
Located nearby schools such as Northeast High School and Wilson Middle School, the library often gets teenage students stopping by after school.
On the walls is a mural by artist Amberella, known for her street art in Philadelphia and Los Angeles that features positive messages in recognizable hearts. Hearts on the center’s wall read “Be You” and “You Are Loved” in English and Arabic. Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Porch Light program contacted the library in December to add the murals after identifying the library as a safe space. The murals were designed by teens in collaboration with Amberella, with the teens deciding the wording.
“I myself used to come to this library as a student, and I would just come to find the books I needed for my assignments and leave,” said librarian Lisa Carpenter. “It wasn’t a place you really wanted to stay, but if they had something like this when I used to come here, believe me I would come here more often.”
In the future the space will include board games and more technology, including a green screen that could be used for taking selfies with different backgrounds.
The library will celebrate with a grand opening on Friday, Jan. 24, that will feature music, dance, snacks, pizza, gift card and K-Pop swag raffles and more for teens. Teens can also add their own hearts and messages to the wall.
The space was funded by an in-house grant through the strategic initiative department meant to encourage librarians to think outside the box with their libraries.
“The sky’s the limit and we want teens to help us decide how the space is used,” Lehu said. The library is also open to partnering with local schools and businesses that have talent or resources they’d like to display at the center.
Other activities for teens include the One Book One Philadelphia book discussion, where people throughout the city read the same book. This upcoming discussion focuses on the novel There There written by Tommy Orange.
The library will also feature a slew of programming in the upcoming months for visitors of all ages. To view all upcoming events and more information, visit libwww.freelibrary.org/locations/northeast-regional-library.