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Queens Library for Teens

Queens Library

Innovation Leader: Joanne King, Associate Director, Communications, jking@queenslibrary.org

Problem Statement

While our full-service Far Rockaway library is heavily used, it is small, and large groups of teens congregated there because they had nowhere else in the community to go. There was no separate teen area within the library. Another demographic, those who had dropped out of high school, hung out in the library during the day while teens their own age were in high school. Other users were intimidated, and the whole library was disrupted. It was clear that we needed a separate, dedicated location for this population.

Innovation

Queens Library for Teens, which opened in 2008 in a storefront a block away from Queens Library at Far Rockaway, is based on Queens Library’s Youth Empowerment Model. With this model, we seek to positively engage teens via teen-friendly programming and collections, a relaxed set of rules, and more. Queens Library for Teens is staffed by a full-time Youth Counselor, two part-time Youth Counselors, and a few Youth Workforce Development workers.

Queens Library pursued grants, including a federally funded Juvenile Justice Grant, to support the renting of an empty storefront for the teen library. One big draw for teens is technology; Queens Library for Teens has 40 customer-use computers with high-speed Internet access. Snacking is allowed, and computer skills workshops, career development, job readiness fairs, open mics and more all engage young adults in a positive way. Because of our success, we have been able to garner grant funding; our most recent acquisition was a professional sound-recording booth.

Progress

Queens Library has been part of Far Rockaway’s redevelopment partnership for many years. The library has worked with community liaisons at the police precinct (one of the most crime-ridden in New York City) to give job training and academic support to youth-at-risk. In partnership with other organizations, high-school level tutors were hired to give homework assistance at the library. Queens Library for Teens is the most effective iteration to date.

Queens Library for Teens immediately returned Queens Library at Far Rockaway to efficient operations. Adults and children were more inclined to come to the library because all the computers were not being taken up by the young adults. One year after Queens Library for Teens opened, circulation of materials at Queens Library at Far Rockaway was up by nearly 15 percent.

Queens Library for Teens serves about 33,000 young adults per year. Since it opened, we have held about 1,000 programs for teens, with attendance totaling 4,000. Our pre-GED program has served more than 200 young adults (between 16-24) each year.

In late September, the Queens Library for Teens won the 2010 Shubert Library Excellence Award from the University of the State of New York. The committee considered our project “impressive for the leadership, determination and community support given to resolve a serious library problem.” Queens Library for Teens provides an innovative solution to a challenging situation.