Teens @ the Library
By Jimmie Epling
Darlington County Library System
It sounds a bit cliché to begin talking about teens and libraries with “Did you know…,” so I won’t do that to grab your attention about a need the Darlington County Library System is working to meet. I’ll just put the facts in front of you (American Library Association Young Adult Library Services Association. www.ala.org/yalsa/teens-need-libraries.
After school, nationwide, there are approximately 14 million middle and high school students that are on their own. With so many teens on their own, 80% of Americans want all children and teens to have some type of organized activity or safe place to go after school because it is reported that teen crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes peaks between 3 and 6 p.m.
There are more public libraries in the U.S. than McDonald’s restaurants or Starbucks, so it is natural to think teens may see their local public libraries as a place to go. It is estimated teens make over 2 billion visits to public and school libraries in a given year, nearly twice the nationwide attendance at movie theaters. Why are teens at the Library? Public libraries are viewed as safe places for teens to visit, wait for a ride, meet friends, socialize, read, study, to be tutored, and participate in programs.
As an age group, teens (ages 12 – 18) often receive less attention and financial support than other age groups. Spending by government, social agencies, philanthropists, and non-profit groups directed at teens lags far behind what is invested in children (birth through 11 years) and young adults (19 and up). So what is the Library doing to serve this age group?
The Library is committed to encouraging teens to be readers and lifelong learners. To do this, we scour new book lists, like the New York Times list, book award lists, such as the South Carolina Young Adults Award nominee list, and local school reading lists to buy in print and/or e-book format what is popular, recommended, and being used locally. The Library purchases the popular books of cartoon drawings that tell a story (a.k.a. graphic novels. Not to be equated with comic books) and manga (a.k.a. Japanese style graphic novels). We also have magazines teens like, such as Seventeen. Those teens doing research for a school assignment will find a wealth of resources in the Library and through DISCUS, South Carolina’s free 24/7 research databases, on our website at www.darlington-lib.org.
When school is out and there is no Internet access at home, teens turn to the Library to access the world through the web. They are able to complete school assignments, write resumes, and fill out employment applications using the resources they find at the Library. Whether it is through using the Library’s public computers or the free Wi-Fi, the Library provides that bridge across the “digital gap” teens with no Internet access at home need to succeed.
In the eyes of teens, the Library wants to be seen as a welcoming and fun place to be. Whether it is just a place to meet friends and chat, “surf the net,” play Pokémon Go, or for any number of other reasons, we want teens to enjoy their stay.
The Library offers programs targeted just at teens. At Darlington there is a special teen program every Monday at 5 p.m. These have included “Cooking for Champions,” “T-Shirt Upscale,” the “Ninja Obstacle Course,” “Anime Club,” and others. You will find teen programs at our other locations, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill. Given the location nearest you or Friend us on Facebook to keep up with the latest happenings at the Library.
At the Darlington County Library, we are working to be the kind of place teens will enjoy visiting and make a part of their life.