Sunday Reflections: That Time I Got to Help Build an ALL Youth Library
In the span of my 28 year career in public libraries, I have two incredible moments that meant everything to me. One was creating the Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, a project that I lead from start to finish and is still going well (as much as it can be during a deadly global pandemic). I never thought that I would get to do anything as amazing as this project, but recent events have proven me wrong.
On August 14th the Fort Worth Public Library system opened an all youth branch, and I got to play a small part in that. The Reby Cary branch, named after a local educator of high regard by the local community, is an amazing branch dedicated entirely to youth. The collections, resources and space are designed for youth ages birth to 18 and for youth only. Adults can put books on hold and pick them up at this branch, so if an adult brings their kids to the library they can pick up reading material for themselves as well, but the actual space is dedicated to youth. It’s my dream come true.
Unlike the TMS I mentioned above, I was not involved in this project from start to finish. It required things like getting a bond passed, hiring architects, and so much more. A lot of hard working people dedicated to the local community and to serving youth worked long hours and with a fierce commitment to bring this project to completion. My role was primarily to select the books and build the collections, and I had help doing that. But every single book in this library for these kids is a brand new book, hand selected to build the very best of collections with them in mind.
The day I showed up to start helping to unbox and shelve those books, I knew that I was getting to be a part of something profoundly amazing.
Today, I am going to take you on a visual tour with photos I took while setting up the library.
The Teen Area
Both sides of this shelf are the teen collection, which I got to build from scratch! It includes fiction and nonfiction and graphic novels (my amazing coworker Michelle buys the graphic novels, so I can’t take credit for that.)
Near the teen area you can find this seating
The seating is the most comfortable seating I have ever experienced in a library. I don’t know where these chairs come from but I have been trying to find out because I want to get one for my house. There are tons of windows and natural light. And near the collections, there is a makerspace. I have been building teen collections and spaces for 28 years and I love this one.
As I mentioned, the collections focus on youth from birth to ages 18. So we have everything you would expect to see – board books, picture books, juvenile fiction and juvenile nonfiction.
The Picture Book shelving is my favorite. I find the curvy lines to be so inviting and soothing. All of the shelving is on wheels and at one point we realized we wanted to completely flip some collections and ALL WE HAD TO DO WAS MOVE THE UNITS instead of taking every book off of the shelf and shifting it. It was beautiful. Those of you who have ever had to shift entire collections will understand how profoundly beautiful this is.
The board books are on the bottom row in baskets so that the littles can flip through them.
There is a storytime and presenter stage
There is lots of cute furniture for the younger kids as well
There are also rolling bins that can be moved around, various play stations, circulating STEAM kits, a meeting room, a makerspace and more. It’s truly glorious! And I got to help make this happen.
And I can’t forget to mention the amazing, original artwork created for this library. It changes colors and there are buttons throughout the library that kids can switch to change the colors. It looks like an amazing under sea creature to me.
There is also an outdoor reading garden with big games like cornhole. And there is a little succulent garden.
Someone Pinch Me
As we began this project, I knew I was getting to be involved in something special. We spent months working hard to build a balanced youth collection that had a good representation of the old and new for these kids. We ran reports of statistics, combed through lists, and crunched all the data. We worked hard to find books that represented every single possibility, every single kid, that we could find. If collection development were a symphony, this collection would be a magnum opus.
But the first day I showed up to help unbox and shelves I knew that this was so much more important than I even realized. I’m not going to lie, I still get teary eyed thinking about everything that this project means. It has been and honor and a privilege to help make this amazing library exclusively for youth happen. I only played a small part, but I will forever be grateful that I had the honor to do so.
If you would like to learn more about the Reby Cary Youth Library, or visit it (it’s amazing, I highly recommend you visit it), you can find more information here: https://www.fortworthtexas.gov/departments/library/branches/rebycary
There are some articles with more and better pictures about the Reby Cary Youth Library here:
Because I keep getting asked, the shelving was purchased here: https://bcilibraries.com/products/
Filed under: Collection Development
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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