Archive for Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hangin’ at the library

City officials might look beyond the Lawrence Public Library to provide attractive gathering places for local teens.

September 7, 2008


It's good that Lawrence Public Library officials are thinking creatively about how they can make their facility more useful to patrons, and especially to teenagers.

Some of the suggestions, however, raise questions about exactly which community needs should be filled by the library and which would be better handled by other facilities.

There's no doubt that the function of a library has changed considerably in the last several decades. Remember when you went to the library just to look something up in an encyclopedia, another city's phone book or a travel guide? When was the last time you did that?

With so much information available at the tap of a finger on a computer keyboard, there is far less demand for printed reference materials. However, the library serves an important role by providing online access for people who don't have computers at home. Adding as many as 100 new computers, perhaps including some laptops, to the library makes a lot of sense (although keeping so many computers in good working condition will be a challenge).

Computers also are an important draw for young people, a population the library wants to reach out to. Library Director Bruce Flanders' idea is to carve out a young adult room equipped with televisions, a sound system and video game stations, a place "where they can crank the music up and be teens. And it needs to be a place where we don't have to worry about them disrupting the rest of the library."

Attracting more young people to the library is a worthy goal, but Flanders' last statement alludes to the fact that some of the activities that teens enjoy aren't all that compatible with a library setting. Computers, even computers with games and headphones, seem workable; televisions and a sound system, not so much.

It's often said that Lawrence doesn't provide enough places for young people to gather. With that in mind, would it be better to try to carve out some space in recreation centers or other community buildings where teens can watch TV, "crank the music up" and play video games? No matter where such a facility is located such activities will require at least a little adult supervision, but maybe a recreation center could be a more appropriate setting.

Flanders is right that "teens today learn differently" and live in a multimedia world. Maybe the public library can make this plan work, but there might be better options if the city takes a broader approach to the issue. The library staff, however, certainly deserves credit for trying to entice more teens to come to a place where books are at least one entertainment and information option.


tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 7 months ago

"Hangin' at the library"I feel that lynchings really should be limited to City Hall.

Kookamooka 9 years, 7 months ago

The city really missed the boat completely when the grumpy old complainers nixed the new library. I'm not a huge fan of public/private partnerships but the Simon's plan to reclaim the Riverfront Mall, build the new Marriot on the parking lot and reclaim the reuter organ buildings was pure civic genius.

LogicMan 9 years, 7 months ago

The old Gibsons/Food-4-Less would make for a good arcade, etc. for the teens on the south side. If not that, then a sports store.

Kookamooka 9 years, 7 months ago

Hawk, Are you sure the city sold it? I thought that the Riverfront Mall AND Abe and Jakes were still owned by the city? I know the Hills run Bowersock/Zephyr and there was a plan in place to use their power and make the whole project sustainable and eco-friendly and local.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 7 months ago

I might take issue with Bruce on what to do for kids. The community center on 11th would seem more appropriate.There is a room downstairs that would be perfect. Teach kids ballroom dancing and etiquette. Or teach them sock hops with Danny and the Juniors. I did both when I was young. Dancing is fun. Pay Van Go to work with students as well. This provides some variety.Also USD could offer study hall time for students needing assistance. The kids I see downtown look bored. I disagree with the editorial. Computers cannot replace books. Where is the world can you find a place for a kid hangout in the library?

rousseau108 9 years, 7 months ago

If people think the transients hanging out in the library now is bad, wait until they have a full-blown rec room w/ TVs and everything--they'll never leave. The teens won't be able to use it b/c the transients will take over, just like they've taken over the picnic tables and benches in South Park (b/c they're passed out drunk on them and families don't feel comfortable going there). Great idea!

cmkimball 9 years, 7 months ago

"It's often said that Lawrence doesn't provide enough places for young people to gather. "Why is this????We have 3 teens who are always trying to come up with something exciting to do on the weekends. There is no arcade, roller rink, or mall. Then, when they go downtown we have to listen to all the negative things the downtown owners have to say about teens being down there.

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