It’s Not Like the Library You Remember

It’s Not Like the Library You Remember

If your vision of a library is musty stacks of books and a librarian shushing everyone, it’s time to take a trip back to your local branch.

Libraries have reinvented themselves as vital 21st century resources and thriving community hubs for people of all ages. Today’s libraries are home to tech centers, makerspaces, arts and cultural programming, gaming resources and much more. Here are 13 things libraries offer kids today.

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1. Teen Areas

Teens want space, and libraries are nicely positioned to provide it. Many libraries offer teen-only areas that adults and children aren’t allowed into. Teens use these spaces to connect, meet, socialize, do homework, study, watch videos, play games and more. Some libraries have teen advisory boards so young people are in on the planning of the spaces and programming from the start. This ensures that they’re relevant to the people they’re being created for.

2. Tech Centers

The digital divide is real. Library tech centers offer computers, tablets, scanners and more to give young people access to the tools and wifi they need on a daily basis. These tech centers can also house tech clubs where kids can learn more about the technology behind the devices and tools.

3. Makerspaces

Makerspaces take tech centers to a new level by offering 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, access to computer aided design (CAD) tools, circuit boards, saws, and countless other tools for young makers and future engineers.

4. “Read to a Dog”

If a young person struggles to read, therapy dogs can help reduce the discomfort and insecurity of reading aloud. Kids of all ages can read to trained therapy dogs who lend a friendly ear and a non-judgemental companion. The folks at have some great tips if your library doesn’t have this engaging program already in place!

5. Video Games

Kids generally love video games, but not everyone has access to them. When libraries give kids a place to play video games, they invite them into their space, they encourage them to interact, and they provide a safe place for kids to spend time. Some library branches even host gaming tournaments.

6. Game Play Areas

Yes, video games are hot, but we’re seeing a resurgence of board game popularity. Well-established video game shops are even carrying analog games and trading cards. Librarians are creating designated game play areas for legos, card games, board games and whatever the next kid’s game craze will be.

7. After-hours Activities

What would it be like to have free reign in a library after closing? What would it be like to sleep in a library? Some branches are experimenting with after-hours activities. These activities showcase libraries as the community hubs they are, encourage young people to socialize, and give them a really cool way to spend an evening.

8. Online Reference Chat

It’s not necessary to go to a library to get help from a reference librarian — these days you can email or call them. Some library branches offer online chat, so phone call-averse teens can still utilize the quick reference resource for homework, papers and research projects. To get started, search up “Ask a Librarian” and your zip code.

9. Library of Things

The Library of Things movement reinvents the library as a place where patrons can borrow, not just books and media, but a variety of items, including musical instruments, fine art, crafting tools, sporting goods, baking tools, home improvement tools and much more. Though the Library of Things movement is still young, it is established in branches around the world and it points to a future where libraries loan much more than books.

10. Lyrics, Poetry and Spoken Word Competitions

Slam poetry is a high-energy style of spoken word that generally involves a competition called a slam. Some library branches host poetry events and use song lyrics as a way to introduce young people to the art, observe practitioners of the art, and share their own poems.

11. In-house Coffee Shops

Young people love to congregate at coffee shops. Some libraries have gotten wise to this and put coffee shops inside their branches. It’s another way to keep libraries relevant and keep teens engaged, happy…and caffeinated.

12. Cultural Events

Libraries have long championed local arts, and cultural programming is a core part of most library offerings. Libraries have stepped up their artistic and cultural relevance for young people by hosting rock concerts, zine making events, celebrations around a variety of cultural celebrations and subcultural events. The idea is to reflect and support arts and culture that teens are relevant to people of all ages, including teens and kids.

13. Media Centers

In addition to tech centers, libraries put media centers in branches to give people access to video cameras, podcasting gear, music recording equipment and more. These centers become hotbeds of creativity, learning and expression for young people.