As Anacortes Public Library adapts to new ways of learning and growing technology, it is looking to the future with an emphasis on how it serves the library’s youngest visitors.
In the coming months, the library plans to make changes to its children’s department and its teen zone, including ways to make the spaces bigger, easier to find and more usable for young patrons.
Changes include an expanded teen zone (almost doubling the small space) with walls added to allow for both noisy and quiet use. The children’s library will also have more kid-friendly spaces.
Staff members discussed the changes, showcased some architectural drawings and answered questions from community members at a meeting last week.
The designs come after several meetings, where local residents could highlight questions and concerns about changes to the space.
Part of the funding is from the library’s capital budget. A $100,000 donation in the name of Sylvia Maxson will go toward the children’s area in the library, and other donations are coming in for the project, library Director Ruth Barefoot said.
Libraries are no longer just a place to check out a book, though that is still very much present, Barefoot said. As the world changes, so are the ways that people learn.
When teens visit the library to do homework or work on school projects, they need a space that fits the way they learn, whether that’s through hands-on activity, extra room for technology or the chance to close a door and talk to friends without disturbing others, she said.
“Learning environments change and libraries respond,” Barefoot said. “We will show you how libraries can be adjusted to improve experiences for everyone.”
In its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and through feedback, the library can see what the community wants and need, including more access to technology, more programs and more activities, Barefoot said.
The current “Teen Zone” has little table room or space for kids to work, said Diana Farnsworth, the library’s newest librarian. When a class comes in for research, for example, students often must sit along the floor inside the teen area.
She cited the National Teen Space Guidelines put out by the Young Adult Library Services Association, which outlines how to better serve teenage users.
That includes making a space that’s teen-owned and maintained, one that’s comfortable, inviting and open and can be used for socializing as well as learning.
“We want to make sure it’s their space and they know it’s theirs,” Farnsworth said.
The new designs include walls, so the teen area can be used for quiet study time but also for louder projects without disturbing other library guests, she said.
Large windows will mean staff can still monitor the space.
The number of programs offered to teens doubled from 2017 (26 programs) to 2018 (52 programs), and that number keeps growing, Youth Services Librarian Leslie Wilson said.
Teens will be invited in to help choose the chairs and furniture later in the process, Farnsworth said.
The new space will have more laptop bars and spaces for students to use the technology they are getting at school, as well as tables that are movable to accommodate larger groups.
It will be a space designed with lots of teen feedback.
They will also have ownership over the space and will be expected to help clean up, Farnsworth said.
The space will include a maker space area and a small study room with recording equipment to shoot video, make audio recordings and more. Farnsworth said she hopes students will be able to finish school projects using the equipment the library already has.
That brings in internet, too, Barefoot said. The library will be the first recipient of the high speed broadband internet planned by the city. That means faster access to resources for all patrons, including teens, Barefoot said.
About 10 to 15 percent of Anacortes Middle School and Anacortes High School students do not have internet access at home, Barefoot said.
The library offers it free of charge.
Providing equipment and internet puts kids all on the same playing field, Barefoot said.
Near the teen area is the children’s department, which also will get a new look.
The general size of the kids’ area will stay the same, but the entryway will be made clearer and more inviting.
It is important to library staff that when the youngest visitors walk through the doors, they can quickly see where they should go, Barefoot said.
The new design has a big sign outside the children’s department on its new tree-themed entryway. That entry will include a small child-sized entrance, so small kids can walk through the tree.
There will also be display cases added where kids will be able to show off their own collections of items, Barefoot said.
“We want them to be excited about libraries through the rest of their lives,” she said.
Library staff will work with an area artist to create the entryway so that local art is represented in the final design, Barefoot said.
The updated space will include things like coat hooks and a self-checkout station, plus hands-on activities for children and some movable shelving units to open up space as needed.
During a Christmas storytime this year, there were about 200 people crowded into the children’s department, Wilson said.
The changes will not eliminate any part of the book collection, but will make the books easier to see by kids, Wilson said. It will also expand the space for the Family Place library area, which allows hands-on learning for kids and their caregivers.