Central Library Turns 20, Makes Space for Teenagers

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Two teenagers read a book at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Debt from late youth books checked out from the San Antonio Public Library will be forgiven under a new program implemented this month.

The San Antonio Public Library system is a vital public resource for many in our city. No branch exemplifies this more than Central Library, which is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. Specialized spaces like Café Commerce and the Texana Collection help San Antonians of all ages take advantage of not only books, but the public discourse and personal enrichment surrounding them. Now teenagers are among those with a space that meets their needs.

A group of teenagers sit on couches at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

A group of teenagers sit on couches at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

On Tuesday, May 12 the Teen Library opened on the 3rd floor of the Central Library.

“We’re so excited to be providing to our teen population a space they can call their own,” said SAPL Director Ramiro Salazar during the Teen Library’s grand opening.

After 18 years of teen programming, Central Library will finally have a space outfitted for what teens value. State of the art technology, including a “Pop-lab” with a 3-D printer, fills the 6,000 sq. ft. space alongside open-ended hang-out areas with video games, soft furniture, and Wi-Fi.

Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) noted that the space is about inspiring imagination as well as technological and academic literacy.

Councilman Roberto Trevino speaks with Jennier Velasquez at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

Councilmember Roberto Treviño speaks with Jennifer Velasquez at the Teen Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

“I think it’s important that we give access to all those tools to you,” Treviño said to the 100 Henry Ford Academy students gathered.

The students seemed intrigued by the resources around them, including the recording studio where they can create their own content, including podcasts, music, and videos. The content will even be showcased on the SAPL Teen Blog, giving students their first taste of publication.

“I used the library just for checking out books,” said Adam Zapata, 17.

Zapata and his classmates now anticipate using the computers and other technology. The books are still there of course. The teen-focused collection will include everything from STEM texts to Manga and young adult fiction.

“The 3-D printer is pretty cool,” said Zachary Pacheo, 17.

Adam Zapata (left) and Zachary Pacheo pose for a photo at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

Adam Zapata (left) and Zachary Pacheo check out the new Teen Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

Pacheo claimed that his primary uses for the library before this addition were free water and loitering. He thinks he’ll want to better utilize the Teen Library as he works toward his aspiration to be an astronomer or firefighter.

Aside from the much needed technology exposure, helping teens feel at home in public libraries provides a social benefit as well. Some of the elements that might not seem appropriate at first, like the gaming consoles, aim to attract students into a safe and constructive place where they are surrounded by information and purposefulness.

“Today we open this place as a haven for our teens,” said Jean Brady, chair of the SAPL board.

All gathered acknowledged the collaborative effort that goes into funding a project like this, which turned ordinary workspace into “6,000 sq. ft. of awesomeness,” in the words of Jennifer Velasquez, the teen librarian and driving force behind the project.

The City of San Antonio Department of Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI) worked with Marmon Mok Architecture to design the ideal space, and private funding came alongside the City’s to make the design a reality.

“The City only has so many dollars to spread around,” said Tracey Bennett, president of the San Antonio Public Library Foundation.

Library CEO Tracy Bennett speaks at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

San Antonio Library Foundation CEO Tracy Bennett speaks at the newly opened Teen Library in the Central Library. Photo by Scott Ball.

Bennett gestured at the room full of state-of-the-art technology and thanked the private donors for helping to provide the “icing on the cake.”

Velasquez called the Teen Library a celebration of the “now” in students lives, not nostalgia of childhood or their future as taxpayers. Rather she wants to connect those two life stages seamlessly within the walls of the library, never letting students lose the sense of ownership in their public places.

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