March 11, 2019
In the fall of 2018, the YOUmedia Learning Labs Network expanded to include the Teen Hangout youth program at the Loveland Public Library in Loveland Colorado. The YOUmedia model was developed in 2011 with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Grounded in research that demonstrates how young people benefit from community-based learning opportunities to follow their interests with the support of peers and mentors, a network of libraries and museums worked together to create and expand programs that give youth the time and space to create work that is meaningful to them. Ultimately, 30 institutions developed YOUmedia model programs, forming a national network of lead institutions. Loveland Public Library is the third institution to join the network under its new affiliate program. Learn more about the YOUmedia Learning Labs Network and how to join the movement at youmedia.org.
The Teen Hangout at the Loveland Public Library has been operating since February 2012. Teens enjoy access to new technologies, making friends, learning life skills, pursuing areas of interest, connecting to community services, and having a leadership role within the library. All services, including 3D-printing and snacks, are drop-in and free of charge. Right now, teens are excited about volunteering. The Teen Volunteer Program has taken off since starting in 2017, with teens logging over 850 hours of volunteer service in the past year: leading programs, organizing supplies, and helping others get excited about the library. The program focuses on job skills, relationship building, and civic engagement. Teens also find leadership roles through membership with a Teen Advisory Board that meets monthly to advise library staff on the collection, run programs for teens by teens, and fundraise. Based on this experience, Loveland became the first library in the state of Colorado this year to add a voting youth member to its library board.
When asked what they are most excited about in the Teen Hangout, they said, “We’re very excited for Fandom month where we celebrate all things nerdy.”
The Teen Hangout offers an annual free-form Fandom Contest encouraging teens to submit anything written or visual, from fan fiction to a baked cake to a cosplay outfit. Teens have free access to tools and supplies at the library to create their entry. Programming focuses on different Fandoms each week and the grand prize winner receives tickets to Denver Comic Con and bragging rights for the year.
When asked what they want people to know about their Teen Hangout they said that Loveland Library’s Teen Hangout encompasses 2,000 square feet, including an open area with modular seating, butcher-block maker tables, computers, a public desk, a gaming room, and a study/project room with green screen. Within this space are maker shelves, media, magazines, graphic novel and manga collections, as well as tabletop games, lockers, iPads for in-house use, charging stations, a public phone, and snacks. We also maintain an additional 665 square feet to house our young-adult fiction, non-fiction, and audio book collection, located directly outside of the teen space.
In 2018, the library saw over 8,000 teens come in after school, with 65 teens on average each day. The majority are middle-school students eligible for free and reduced lunch, who attend school within walking distance of the library. This has led to a successful partnership with Food Bank of Larimer County and Friends of the Loveland Public Library to provide free snacks to teens during all open hours at the library. We are also a licensed Kids Café site, providing additional nutritious snacks after school during the week. In 2018, the library provided over 15,000 snacks to tweens and teens within our space. We also partner with Kids Pak to provide a weekend’s worth of meals to food-insecure teens.
Ongoing programs focus on building life skills, encouraging creativity, and sharing new experiences. Teens learn how to code robots, fabricate their own designs, make healthy snacks, write stories, and complete service projects. They also have the opportunity to explore other organizations in our community such as The Humane Society (animal shelter), CreatorSpace (local maker lab), Art Space (artists’ coop), and Lulzbot (3D-printing manufacturer) during library-sponsored field trips.
Our community collaborations include a strong partnership with the local school district for outreach and onsite tours and programming. In 2018, the library provided outreach to over 1,000 middle- and high-school students and another 485 students visited the library during school tours. Other community collaborations that meet within our teen space include a support network for LGBTQ+ teens, a transition program—a court-ordered group mentorship program designed to help young adults find alternative paths to difficult situations—and online/homeschooling organizations.
Loveland Public Library’s Teen Hangout is thrilled to join an amazing network of like-minded colleagues and to have the opportunity to learn and grow as part of the YOUmedia Learning Labs Network team. The youth-centered framework embodied by YOUmedia labs echoes our mission to inform, engage, and inspire community teens with equitable access, shared experiences, and self-expression.
By Amber Holmes and Desiree Wolcott-Cushman, Teen Services Managers at the Loveland Public Library