The tween and teen scene at Rocky River Public Library is bustling after school with games — virtual reality and old-school Connect Four — books, computers for homework and hang-out space to catch up with friends. “They can sit around and talk, and it provides a place where they can come in out of the weather,” says Kristine Lee, children’s service manager.
The tween space, located in the mezzanine, is designed for kids ages 10 through middle school. “And it’s a space where you can be a bit louder — it’s not a quiet area like other spaces in the library,” Lee points out, adding that the kids can just be themselves.
That’s especially important during these growing years, she adds. “It’s good for them to have a space where they can behave in age-appropriate ways at a time when they are still figuring out who they are, their brains are still developing — so to have a good spot to nurture that is helpful,” she says.
Plenty of “regulars” visit the tween space, and some work with staff on various volunteer projects — impromptu tasks like shelving books or assisting with other library business, and more formal volunteering through the Volunteer Youth Crew for kids in fourth through sixth grades. “Kids like to come in and help out,” Lee says.
The teen room, located on the first floor, is designed for older students. It is outfitted with tables and a range of seating, including cozy spots to chill.
Aside from the open invite for teens and tweens to drop in after school, the library hosts a book club and a program called Pen-Pal, which is a partnership with Ipswich Libraries in Australia. Kids ages 12 to 17 can complete an Expression of Interest form and connect with a pen pal who shares similar interests and hobbies.
Both library spaces foster a sense of community and bring together young people with a range of interests.
“They are great kids,” Lee says. “We have such wonderful teens and tweens in the community.”