Teens get a voice in how Dakota County libraries can serve them

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2009 - 11:34 PM

As teens make up a bigger portion of library users, Dakota County is giving them a seat at the decision-making table.

Bell Myran is full of ideas.

The Rosemount teenager talks of reading to younger kids and teaching senior citizens computer skills at the local library. She chats enthusiastically about establishing a Web page of book reviews written by and for local teens.

"If they want to read a book, and they want to know how it is, they can read the review and see if they'd like the book or not," Myran, 15, said.

The Rosemount High School student is a member of the fledgling Teen Advisory Group at the Robert Trail Library in Rosemount.

At a time when teen interest in the libraries is surging -- Dakota County saw its young adult circulation numbers rise 11 percent this year, even when excluding the new Robert Trail Library -- the county library system launched the Rosemount group and two others in August. The goal: to build even more interest among teens by giving them a voice in decisions about book selection, programming and even interior design.

"We want their input on how the library can help teens," said Kalla Kalloway, teen services manager for the Dakota County libraries.

In addition to the Rosemount group, others meet monthly at the Farmington Library and the Wentworth Library in West St. Paul.

In Minneapolis, similar teen discussions led to the creation of Teen Central in the downtown Central Library. That's a teen-only space with distinctive red shelving, a study lounge vibe and an array of books selected, in part, by the teens.

"The only way that you're really going to plan things that kids are interested in is to get them involved," said Teen Central librarian Christy Mulligan.

Linda Braun, president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, said teen advisory groups are as helpful to teens as they are to the libraries.

"A lot of it has to do with engagement and fostering creativity and empowerment and self-esteem," Braun said.

Gladys Kim, the teen librarian at Robert Trail, has high hopes for her volunteers, who have been eager to lead discussions and offer suggestions -- buy more copies of the Twilight series, for example -- after just two meetings.

"Their ideas are far-reaching, and it's great," Kim said.

Approval for some of the initial ideas, including a Web page with reviews, will need to come from county officials, but Myran and her fellow teen advisory group members are ready and waiting.

"It has great potential," Myran said. "It will be a valuable asset to the community."

Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056

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