Go ahead, pick up a marker and draw a picture or write a message on the wall of Bayport Library. Really, it's OK.

There is one caveat, however. Permission to do so is only allowed in the library's new Teen Area.

With its walls lined with dry erase material and colorful cushy chairs in the shape of animal paws that are the envy of younger set, the new Teen Area opened in June with the goal of drawing those ages 12 to 18 to the library at 582 N. 4th St. The space also has a computer, games and more than 1,000 books and other materials that are directed toward teens.

"They won't have to go through all the Judy B. Jones books to find what they want," said library director Mark Blando. "They now have a sense of place in the library. We want them in the library. We want them to become life-long library users."

The teen center was the brainchild of Kathy MacDonald, the longtime library director who retired last year after almost 30 years at the library. She saw that parents often brought their young kids to story times and other programs, but few older kids came through the doors.

"She saw the missing segment of the population," Blando said.

Blando replaced MacDonald in January and carried out her idea for a teen area. Staff members visited nearby libraries to get ideas, and the Bayport Library Foundation and donors came up with $22,000 to transform two study rooms on the first floor into the Teen Area.

The collection includes the "Hunger Games" novels and 56 volumes of the Japanese Sci-fi comic book-style novel "Naruto."

"Teens love it," Blando said. More 12- to 18-year-olds are visiting the library, he said: "They feel like they own the place, and they want to keep the little kids out."

Besides offering teens a place to hang out, the library also is working to increase programming to appeal to them. In recent months it has started a teen movie night replete with popcorn. And this summer, the library is holding a reading program for teens and preteens that will end on Aug. 20 with an ice cream social.

Tim Harlow • 651-925-5039, Twitter: @timstrib