Cumberland County libraries struggle

With the Cumberland County Library System putting more emphasis on attracting teens, area libraries hope to provide that age group the kind of programs and activities that could catch their eyes.


Jeffrey Swope, the incoming director of Bosler Memorial Library, said the library is currently in a transitional phase while it considers how to attract young adults. The library celebrated its grand reopening on June 2 after an expansion project was completed. The project cost $6.5 million and took five years to complete. A part of the expansion was a dedicated teen space.


“That’s the good news, because the services and the opportunities to engage teens and young adults in our communities is really a large focus for us,” Swope said. While the opportunities are there, what the space will be used for is still in the planning phases. “That’s all in development. We’re not really there yet.”


The library has a strong collection for teens, which include graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy works. The target audience is more broad than simply identifying them as “young adults,” Swope said. While the group initially meant ages 12 to 17, he said it now typically refers to those in the 12 to 26 age bracket.


Other local libraries use a variety of activities to attract the younger audience through their front doors. Linda Wilson, the assistant director at the Joseph T. Simpson Library, said the library has a summer reading program for teens, along with video game and movie nights. One of the more popular events, she said, was a mystery dinner. Staff members of the library act out a mystery play while teens are served dinner courses and are given the opportunity to solve the mystery.


Wilson, who is also the teen-services librarian, said the number of participants at events varies from 3 to 15. Fourteen students recently participate in the video game night, which she said was a good turnout. For the mystery dinner, she said as many as 20 or more usually attend.


Young adults, however, use the library for some of its more practical reasons as well.


“We have a good many that come in to use the Internet or do homework assignments.” Wilson said.


Special classes are also sometimes given, including a manga drawing class.


Emma Crawford, 13, and Jennifer Gentry, 17, both of Mechanicsburg were among the seven participants at the May drawing class.


It was Gentry’s first exposure to the art style, but she said she thought the class was fun. Crawford, however, has been drawing manga since she was 10 years old. She has already drawn a volume of her own manga and used the class as a way to gauge how her art has evolved. Both Crawford and Gentry said they would surely attend future manga classes, as well as other programs that the library offers.


Teens have a direct say in what happens at the Cleve J. Fredricksen Library. Christine Davies, teen services director, said the library has a teen advisory group. The group consists of middle and high school students, and Davies referred to it as a “good social club” for teens to belong to. Students in the group hold fundraisers to buy decorations for the teen space and to contribute to the teen collections in the library.


“For the teens, that’s books, magazines and our video game collection,” Davies said.


Some of the library’s events are a big draw for young adults. Davies said some events will draw as many as 40 kids for movie nights and 75 for the tie-die program. In total, she said there are 32 programs over the eight weeks of summer. Some of the programs include an entrepreneurship class and a speculative fiction class.


Katie Barr, 17, of Mechanicsburg, has been on the library’s teen advisory board for about five years. Since she was in the the seventh grade, she has been on the board that helps the library develop programs catered toward teenagers.


“We meet together, and we try to come up with teen programs for the library,” Barr said. Some of those programs include nights devoted to board games, video games and movies. Other events are catered toward reading, such as reading-discussion groups.


She said the involvement gives teenagers a voice in the decision-making process.


“I think the teens are sometimes overlooked,” Barr said.



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