By Janis Fontaine
Three words tweens and teens love? “No adults allowed.”
“It’s important for kids to have their space,” librarian Sarah Figgie said.
Figgie is the head of children’s services at the Delray Beach Public Library. A former middle school librarian, Figgie is committed to bringing high quality materials geared toward kids to the library, and she wanted to make the new Tween Space as much a kid-magnet as possible.
“It’s tucked away in the corner, so it’s a little more private. We put up lots of inspirational posters and artwork and there are throw pillows,” Figgie said. It’s also located next to the tech lab, which has computers the kids can use.
Figgie knows the library has lots of competition for kids’ attention. “Kids have to choose to hang with us,” Figgie said. By providing books that kids want to read in a setting conducive to reading, Figgie hopes to lure them in. Sometimes that means books about new subjects, like the effects of online bullying. Other times, it’s the classic themes: love, loss, hope.
“Current issues should be reflected in literature, but some stuff will always be the same,” Figgie said. “Some books and themes are so timeless all we need to do is change the cover.”
The upgrades were made possible by a $25,000 grant from the Virginia and Harvey Kimmel Family Fund. The Kimmel family has been a valuable benefactor of the library for years, Figgie said.
“In general, our mission is to support art and education, especially in the marginalized and underserved population,” Sara Kimmel, Harvey and Virginia Kimmel’s daughter, said by phone. “A library that’s run well is a real asset to the community. It’s a no-brainer.”
Kimmel, a psychologist, also appreciates the focus on tween kids. “It was apparent how much need there was for these vulnerable kids, particularly girls, especially now when they’ve been isolated from their peers and mentors. We gave them a place to read, grow and play that is accessible to all.”
Expanding the tween book collection in the children’s department, which features fiction and nonfiction reads for 8- to 12-year-olds, was paramount, but the new space is also more kid-friendly. There are plans to add a large portable LCD monitor for group projects and gaming.
The pandemic means the area has no toys yet and that formal programming hasn’t resumed on site, but it will soon.
New members are welcome and opportunities continue to grow. Teenagers can take virtual volunteer positions — like writing book reviews to post on the library’s GoodReads page. In its efforts to bring kids together, the library has an environmental club that meets monthly for community service projects like beach cleanings.
Figgie said the library plans to start a Tween Club. It also plans to purchase tween/teen STEM kits that kids can take home to do science and technology experiments, presented as fun diversions.
As Figgie said, “We’re in the entertainment business. Then we sneak our education stuff in there.”
For more information, visit the library at 100 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 561-266-0194; www.delraylibrary.org.