Literary Institutions Creating User Friendly Spaces for Teens

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Marie J. Vielot

Observation Paper

INFO 650 Spring 2009

Literary Institutions Creating User Friendly Spaces for Teens

Central Library of Newnan, GA

Barnes & Noble Bookstore

The Central Library is part of the Coweta Public Library System (“CPLS”) located in Newnan, GA a suburb of Atlanta, GA. The CPLS is comprised of four libraries throughout the county; two branches in the City of Newnan, a branch in the City of Grantville and a branch in the City of Senoia. The Central Library is located near the intersection of Lower Fayetteville Road and Highway 154. The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired building is the first library in unincorporated Coweta County. 

Newnan is a city in Coweta County, Georgia, 39 miles (63 km) southwest of Atlanta. Newnan sits on land that originally belonged to the Lower Creek Native-American Nation and encompasses 19 square miles. 1Chief William McIntosh ceded the land to the federal government in the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825. After the treaty was signed, Coweta County was established, and the settlement of Bullsboro, two miles east of present-day Newnan, was named the county seat. In 1828 a new county seat was established and called Newnan, after Daniel Newnan (1780-1851), a noted soldier and Georgia statesman. Newnan was ranked the wealthiest city per capita in The United States in the first half of the 20th Century.

2The town is home to one of the few Georgia counties with a museum that focuses mainly on African American history. The Coweta County African American Heritage Museum and Research Center, or Caswell House, was opened in July 2003 in a donated mill village house once owned by Ruby Caswell. It has collected hundreds of family genealogical records by interviewing residents and going through the census records. The museum also houses the Coweta Census Indexes from 1870 to 1920. The first black library in the county was the Sara Fisher Brown Library. Built in the 1950s, the library has since been converted into the Community Action for Improvement Center.

Newnan is one of the fastest growing cities in Georgia, with an estimated population of16, 242 in 2000; 24,654 in 2005; 27,097 in July 2006 and 28,857 in 2007. The growth and development of Newnan is largely attributed to the close proximity of Atlanta. The city’s population is projected to continue to rapidly grow over the next several years. Newnan is often described as a city with small-town charm, historic character, and friendly people.  As the city continues to grow and prosper, the sense of community, uniqueness, and appeal is still alive and well. 

3According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.1 square miles (46.9 km²), of which, 17.9 square miles (46.4 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (1.05%) is water.

4According to City-Data the City, there were 16,242 people, 5,939 households, and 3,973 families residing in the city. The population density was 906.4 people per square mile (349.9/km²). There were 6,464 housing units at an average density of 360.7/sq mi (139.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 54.08% White, 42.15% African American, 0.20% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.59% from other races, and 1.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 4.96% of the population.

There were 5,939 households out of which 34.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.0% were married couples living together, 23.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.1% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.8% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 31.9% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.5 males.

5According to the U.S. Census Bureau American FactFinder, From 2005-2007, 83 percent of people 25 years and over had at least graduated from high school and 28 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher. Seventeen percent were dropouts; they were not enrolled in school and had not graduated from high school. The total school enrollment in Newnan city was 5,000 from 2005-2007. Nursery school and kindergarten enrollment was 710 and elementary or high school enrollment was 3,100 children. College or graduate school enrollment was 1,200. From 2005-2007, 18 percent of people were in poverty. Twenty-seven percent of related children under 18 were below the poverty level, compared with 9 percent of people 65 years old and over. Sixteen percent of all families and 44 percent of families with a female householder and no husband present had incomes below the poverty level.

Atrium of the Central Library

On the afternoon of Saturday April 11, 2009, the author conducted an observation of the Central Library. The author walks through the automatic doors of the Central Library and immediately noticed a café on my right. The café is decorated with pendant lighting, tile floors, a flat screen television, three tables with four chairs each; two lounge types chairs in the far left, a food preparation area with a sink, a refrigerator, and cabinets. The warm orange and cream colors are bright and earthy. This kitchen area is only visible to patrons through a half wall/ bar area where snacks or food are displayed during an event/program. There is a door separating this kitchen area from the café marked for employees only.

It is Saturday afternoon and children are participating in Game On – a social networking program encouraging pre-teens and teens (ages 11 – 15) to play games and make friends. Game On is held in the large Library Meeting Room. The foyer leading to the meeting room is decorated with carpet and a coat rack. The meeting room is a large carpeted room that is scarcely furnished. The furnishings in this room depend upon the meeting or event being held. For today’s activities; playing the latest video craze Wii on a large screen, the room is empty to allow the fifteen children participating in this activity with ample play space. The YA librarian facilitated this event and made sure everyone had the opportunity to play. The author observed two other parents sitting in the room as their child (ren) played. The children were all engrossed in the dance game on the screen. Whenever someone missed a step, a slew of “ah” and “you missed it” where echoed throughout the room. The author observed the skillful play of one young lady in particular in the dance game and the librarian allowed her to continue to play against the other children until she lost. Needless to say, during this observation the young lady didn’t lose. The librarian informed the group that a Teen Gaming Tournament will be held next month at the library. The kids were excited and began to trash talk about their gaming prowess.

The author walked through another set of automatic doors that opened up to reveal a series of arched ceilings of differing heights. The wood beams located in the middle section offers an old world architectural touch. This space is called the library’s Atrium. The lighting chosen in this area includes 9 saucer type light fixtures recessed lights and the old fashioned (but still useful) squared fluorescent lights. The circulation desk is a large wood circular desk with two openings on each side. The circulation desk sits in the middle of the atrium with visibility to both the children section (on the right), the adult and young adult sections (on the left). The most striking architectural feature of the atrium is the large circular window located on the back wall of the room.

There are several book shelves that line the walls of the atrium including the following subject areas; Science Fiction, Staff Picks, Read-a-Likes, Book Bundles, National Poetry Month Selections, New Titles, Audio/Visual/CD/DVD section, Health and Style Magazines (Adult), Magazines and Newspaper (general and specific subjects), Children’s Health, and Classic Titles. Several comfortable chairs, small tables, and artwork complete the décor of this space. The chairs are cozy and the colors chosen (purple, gold, and green) are warm earth tones. The décor promotes a relaxing and calming atmosphere. Just beyond the back doors of the atrium is an outdoor patio area decorated with wrought iron patio furniture (tables and chairs), potted plants/flowers and paved stone overlooking a lush green space.

The author observed a few patrons moving quietly throughout the atrium. A couple of patrons were browsing the bookshelves; a man and a woman were speaking softly in a seating area located on the right side of the room; a young man was filling out an application for a library card and another young man sat quietly on a cozy chair reading a book towards the back of the atrium. If the author wasn’t aware of the teen program occurring right outside these double doors, the author wouldn’t have known there were 15 children playing Wii in the library. The author found it to be profoundly quiet in the atrium. The occasional question from a patron to the circulation desk librarian broke the silence from time to time but for the most part it was quiet.

The author approached the circulation desk librarian inquiring about the New York Times best sellers list. The librarian smiled and was very pleasant as she directed h to the New Titles bookshelf where the bestseller’s list was displayed. After browsing through the list and the bookshelf, the author left the atrium and entered the adult/YA sections.

The YA section is the first room to the right inside the adult section. The author observed young man and assumed his father reading in the room. The father sat on a comfy chair and the young man sat on a tool-like chair by the high top table reading a comic book. The YA section is small glass encased room with small book shelves on all four walls and the first two book shelves within the adult section to your right. YA titles include fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, comics, manga and graphic novels. Beyond these two book shelves lies the adult section.

The adult section repeats the décor of the main lobby by placing the reference desk in the center of the room, book shelves flank the right and left sides of the room, comfortable chairs, and small desks are found on the front right side of the room. Eight sets of study tables are place in the center aisle of this large room. The author observed several people working at these study tables behind the reference desk. There are also two computer areas for general use located on the center aisle; one in front of the reference desk and one behind the reference desk. The computer areas consist of two octagon shaped desk with partitions along side each computer terminal for privacy. On the right and left side of referenced desk located at the end of the book shelves were two computers for access to the catalog. A patron can also access the catalog on one of the general use computer terminals. This Saturday afternoon proved to be slow and quiet. Only a few patrons were using the computer terminals. Several patrons were browsing the shelves, working on their laptops or reading. Towards the back of the room is a “quiet room” with two large windows for study groups or an extra quiet place for one person to read or study. The adult section repeats the theme of natural light with several windows along the back wall and on the left and right walls of the room. The adult collection includes Art, Biography, Fantasy, Fiction, Language, Education, Literature, History, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery and Detective Fiction, Short Story, Love Story, Health, Psychology, Law, Religion Tax Material and Self-Help.

The children section is located on the opposite side of the building. The first thing that strikes the author in this room is the height of the bookshelves and the size of the tables and chairs. Of course everything is smaller than in the adult section. Furthermore, the décor is somewhat different from the atrium and the adult/YA sections. The bright colors, toys, stuffed animals and children artwork on the walls of this room clearly states that this is a place for children. The author did observe four comfortable chairs in the back reading areas of the room for parents. The chairs were large enough for adults to comfortably sit in them while reading to their children. As in the other areas, the reference desk is located in the middle aisle. The two computer areas are located towards the back of the room and are designed in the same fashion as in the adult section. The children section is also filled with bright natural light due to the large windows on three walls, a couple of magnetic game tables, an enclosed room filled with large plush stuffed animals and a soft floor; ideal for a mid afternoon nap after story time. Closing time was approaching and the children librarians were cleaning up when the author entered this space. There was a family checking out books and another little girl on the computer. The librarians were all engaging and said “hello” as the author walked past. Unfortunately, due to the hour the author did not observe a story time or a busy time for this section. The author believes it would have been beneficial to see how the librarians engage and service a larger crowd. The children collection includes the Dr. Seuss Series and other Series Books, Pop Up books, Videos, CDs, DVDs, Audio books, Fantasy, Animal, Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Touch and Feel Books, Religious Story Books, Nursery Rhymes, Character books, Alphabet Books, Counting Books, Chapter Books, Parenting Books, Children Health and Children Classical Title Books.

The author re-entered the atrium area and picked up a library events calendar and a couple of fliers advertising for the Friends of the Coweta County Library and the Geo-tech program at the circulation desk. She also picked up an audio-book and a comic book to check out. Pleasantly surprised she saw several patrons waiting on line to check out. The author stood on the back of the line and observed the librarian’s interaction with each patron. She noticed the librarian made eye contact with each patron and smiled as the patrons approached her. The librarian checked out each book, told the patron when the book was due and gave the patron the receipt. When it was the author’s turn, she asked the librarian did the library carry the Steve Harvey bestselling book titled “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”. The librarian knew immediately what book being referred and checked the catalog via her computer terminal on the books availability. She told the author the library has five copies of this book however, all five where checked out. She offered to put the author on the waiting list and took down my phone number in order to call me when the book is available.

As the author went through the double doors of the atrium, she felt quite good about her interactions today and how the library staff serviced the patrons during her observation. The author was curious to see if the Game-On program was over. She went back to the Library Meeting Room and noticed the video game play was not over. The children were now onto another game named “Brawl” and the librarian informed the group that the program will end in 30 minutes so everyone shall get a chance to play.

Store Hours:

Sun 9:00AM-9:00PM

Mon-Thu 9:00AM-10:00PM

Fri-Sat 9:00AM-11:00PM

The Newnan Barnes & Nobles is located in the hottest spot in Newnan, GA; The Forum at Ashley Park an open-air regional specialty retailing, entertainment and dining. Ashley Park is situated in Atlanta’s high-growth Southwest atrium, is 850,000 square feet of great power and lifestyle retailing featuring a generous use of green space, boulevard parking and distinctive architecture. The center is strategically located adjacent to 1.5 million square feet of power retail including Target and JC Penney, forming a new retail nucleus for a trade area that draws from five counties. The development is anchored by Dillard’s, Barnes & Noble, DSW, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, Georgian Cinemas, and Belk. This shopping center attracts thousands of customers every week to the various retailers and small boutiques that dot alongside its landscaped cobblestone streets. For the teen population of Newnan, the Barnes & Nobles is a weekend hang out spot.

The author decided to visit the Barnes & Nobles on Saturday April 18, 2009. The store’s décor begins before the customer walks through its doors. The sidewalk in front of the store has three wrought iron tables with four chairs each and patio furniture with a large umbrella on small pebbles. There is also a chess table with two boulders serving as seats. Beautiful flowers adorn this area and right across the street is the Ashley Park Fountain. A beautiful fountain (or waterfall) with boulders, flowers, pergolas and additional landscaping is directly across the street from the store. The store is located on a corner lot with exits and entrances on both Newnan Crossing Bypass and Ashley Park road.

The window featured pastel colors, flowers, birds and butterflies above the book displays. The large front windows and the two wood doors with glass inserts allow customers to see the store from the street. The interior of the store is as impressive as the exterior. A large bright room with stacks of books, magazines, gifts and a Starbucks café entices the customer upon the first step. The sale items are proudly displayed on shelves and tables with large 10% off and 30% off in red to catch the customer’s eye. The Bestsellers and New Releases are highlighted with the author’s picture and additional signage with large lettering of the book’s title. The room is bright and neat. The café looks just like a regular Starbucks café and had many customers appreciating a hot or cold beverage of their choice. The seating along the window consist of both comfortable window seating and hard wood chairs. The magazine racks contained everything from People Magazine to Architectural Digest. The front half of the store also included Gardening, Travel, Maps, Cookbooks, Staff Recommendations and Self- Help books.

The far right of the store consists of “Gift for Readers”. This area is well lit, the walls are painted a crisp ecru color and adorned with pretty lace items, and leather bound journals, attractive bookmarks of various materials and colors. There are three cashiers in this section due to its close proximity to the titles mentioned above.

Beyond the gift section is the children section. This area is brighter than all the others and the color pallet is soft and very child like. The character driven décor includes a beautiful tree sculpture, yellow walls, light oak book shelves, bright carpet, stuffed animals, a rocking horse, bean bags, small tables and chairs and hundreds of books and learning games. The author observed a lot of activity in this section. Moms and Dads with babies, toddlers and elementary age children browsed the aisles, played with the various games, and read a loud to their children. Upon entering this area, there is a large display of the story time weekly schedule. The clearance books are located in a separate section highlighting the prices and titles. A cashier/information desk was located inside this area. The author observed that the bookstore included a cashier/information desk in each section making it easy for the customer to check out or ask a question.

On the way to the audio/visual section of the store, the author glanced over the various sections including Religion, Language, Art, Music and History. The audio/visual section offers customers the ability to listen to CDs before purchasing. In addition to music, this section sells movies on both DVDs and Audio-Books. On this Saturday afternoon, there were several teens at the listening area, browsing CD titles and purchasing DVDs and CDs. Upon leaving this section, the author observed more books shelves with titles from Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Self-Help, Poetry, Classics, Fiction, Biographies, Autobiographies, Large Print, Drama, Crime, Detective, Investment, Finance, Tax, and DIY (Do It Yourself). The author could not find the Teen section and asked the employee at the Customer Service Desk for assistance. The employee smiled and guided her to an aisle to the left entrance of the Children section. The Teen Section consisted of one aisle of bookshelves. The author was surprised that the bookstore didn’t have a larger section dedicated to Teens as they do for Children. As mentioned above, Barnes & Nobles is a weekend hang out spot for teens. It didn’t make sense to the author that the bookstore didn’t try to engage the teens in literary activity. Uncomfortable with this notion, the author approached the staffer behind the Customer Service Desk and asked what programs the bookstore had for teens. The staffer answered her with a calendar of events and pointed out the Teen Book Club held one Thursday every month at 7pm. The author wasn’t satisfied with the answer given and continued to probe the staffer on this issue. The staffer stated the bookstore offers books for teens and the Teen Book Club to engage this population. However, there is no room for a separate teen section within the bookstore and there are no plans to incorporate one.

The author also did not find many comfy seating areas outside of the children’s area for adults or teens to sit. There was just one area with four large comfy chairs and a small table in the middle of them located not too far from the Customer Service Desk. This bookstore is very large and the author found it peculiar that there weren’t additional comfy chairs scattered about the store.

An aspect that was highlighted in the observation of the Central Library and Barnes & Nobles was connecting with teens by creating a user-friendly space. Barnes & Nobles provided a beautiful atmosphere with an emphasis on well lit large colorful children area and a sophisticated Starbucks café. The teen population was obviously an after thought in the designing of this location. Central Library YA collection is not as large as the children or adult collections but an area was carved out for the teens within the adult section. The YA room is just that; for teens/young adults. The Central Library has carved out a space within the building just for teens (young adults) and that can only encourage teen participation at the library.

A special teen space within the library can be a positive, safe area for studying and socializing. It can also expand the library’s underbase by appealing to nonusers as well as increasing the number of current (and future) library supporters. Teen space “must be welcoming, fun, exiting, clearly defined, attractive, and informal”, according to Bolan. The library’s teen space can be a great “third place” for young people, someplace away from home and school that is safe and fun. (Gregory pg. 40)
Barnes & Nobles offered a Teen Book Club meeting one Thursday every month at 7pm. Obviously the bookstore acknowledges the large teen population that hangs out at their store but is a monthly book club meeting enough? Why not have the meetings on Friday or Saturday when a larger number of teens are in the vicinity? Are teens involved in the book selections process?

The Central Library has developed several programs for teens with and without parents/guardians involvement. The teens are allowed to be themselves and there is a program schedules on a weekly to keep Newnan teens calendars full. Here is a list of teen programs presently offered at the Central Library:

  • 6Game On – a social networking program encouraging pre-teens and teens (ages 11 – 15) to play games and make friends.

  • Red Cross Babysitters Clinic - for boys and girls ages 11-15, this certified course prepares students with training every parent wants in a babysitter. Includes safety, basic childcare, safe play, first aid and critical emergency action skills. Those who successfully complete the course will receive their Red Cross certificate.

  • TLC: Teen Library Council - Wanted: Teens ages 12-18! If you have ideas for the teen collection, teen programs or teen space, you should join the Teen Advisory Board and have you voice heard at Central Library. The board will meet once a month to discuss teen issues and organize programs.

  • Teen Madness - Do you need a study break? Well take a break at Central Library! Join us for an afternoon of assorted activities. We will try our hands at arts & crafts, trivia, book discussions and much more. Oh… did we forget to mention we will also have SNACKS!

  • Mother-Daughter Book Club - Meet us in the Bookworm Café for food and fun, just for moms and their daughters in grades 6-8! Books will feature strong female role models and relevant themes. This is an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of one another, learn something new and most of all have fun! Seating is limited and pre-registration is required on an individual meeting basis.

The reader will note that none of the programs listed above involve the computer or social networking websites. The Central Library advocates teens to be social involved with one another and the entire library community. TLC is a great way the library staff has thought of to get to know what teens really want out of the library. TLC provides teens with a forum to speak their minds on a multitude of topics that will shape the future of the Central Library. In the author’s opinion, TLC is a celebration of teen’s intelligence and activism within the library community.

Ivanka Stricevic examines the Medvescak Public Library in Zagreb Croatia in the article, Young Adults As Public Library Users, and its huge impact on public librarianship in Croatia especially in the area of teen programming. Stricevic states”

“a special department for young adults has been in operation since 2000. Since its opening four years ago, the number of teenagers becoming members of the IDI PA VIDI (IPV) Young Adults Department and using the newly run services has increased by 1,000. The most prominent figure is the number of teenagers visiting per month (more than 2,500 visits). This suggests a great interest from a population that had been neglected prior to the introduction of new library services.

The Young Adults Department, named by young users as IPV (Go and See . . .), offers standard library service to teenagers in a way they find acceptable and in a separate space that is designed specifically for this age group. Also, library materials are adjusted to the needs and interests of young adults, and new forms of work are developed, motivating young people to spend most of their free time in the library participating in various activities, programs, and projects.” (Stricevic, pg. 40)

Stricevic’s example illustrates the great impact on library participation when teens were given a place for themselves within the library setting. The increase in teen involvement is staggering. By initiating a relationship with teens, libraries will improve circulation numbers and bookstores will increase profitability. Moreover, the literary environment of the library and bookstore will promote an increase in academics and intellectual freedom. Literary institutions such as libraries and bookstores primarily focus their services and square footage on young children (pre-readers, new readers and elementary age reader) and adults (over the age of 18). Teens are usually lost in the mix or left out entirely. How will literary institutions forge a place for themselves in the future if they omit teens consideration in collection, program and service development?

“Public libraries (in most parts of the world as well as in Croatia) do not provide continuous programs and services that would cater to the changing needs of young library users as they grow up; rather intensive programs for children are implemented only until they finish elementary school. After that, they become (or they do not become) users of adult services, which are not very often suited to their needs in terms of methods or contents.”

“More developed library systems throughout the world have shown, and IFLA Guidelines on Library Services for Young Adults have defined, the need to pay special attention to this age group. In this period of life, when children make the transition from childhood to adulthood, they need to be offered services and activities that will be suited to their specific interests in the new media of today's communication.” (Stricevic pg.40)

During tough economic times, libraries must think outside of the box to retain patron participation. Using innovative budget friendly methods to attract teens will increase overall participation because families will no longer be torn between finding something for the entire family to do at no or low cost. The library can be the place where teens go to have fun and make friends. Central Library hit the nail on the head with the Game On activity. The author observed teens ages 12 -18 enjoying a Saturday afternoon in a safe environment at no cost to their parents. What parent wouldn’t jump at the chance to sign up their child(ren) to participate in this type of programs? This theory is eloquently demonstrated in Eli Neiburger book Gamers ... in the Library?!: The Why, What, and How of Videogame Tournaments for All Ages. Neiburger states "It is important for libraries to stake out turf that our competitors can't touch. Story time is turf we staked out long ago, and although there has been encroachment from bookstores, our service remains superior in quality and clearly isn't just a sales tool. Similarly, videogame events not only claim unique turf that we can build on, they also allow the gaming community a glimpse of a library that has things they want and a vision of what we can offer to patrons who have no demand for traditional library services" (pp. 4-5).

Barnes & Nobles can learn something from this small town library; how to create a user-friendly space for Newnan teens. The competition between bookstores and libraries has only intensified during this recession. Families think twice before buying books, videos, DVDs and even CDs. The library provides free computer terminals for their patrons, free beginner computer classes, tax assistance, job searching assistance and a safe place for children and teens to read, play and socialize with the rest of the community. Barnes & Noble must step up their game in and create a niche for teens in their beautiful atmosphere.

City, (2009). Newnan, GA. Retrieved April 11, 2009 from
Coweta County Public Library (2009). Central Library Homepage. Retrieve April 11, 2009 from
Gwen M Gregory.  (2009, April). Designing Library Places for the Younger Crowd. Information Today, 26(4), 40.  Retrieved April 30, 2009, from Research Library Core database.
Neiburger, Eli. Gamers ... in the Library?!: The Why, What, and How of Videogame Tournaments for All Ages, Chicago: American Library Association, 2007
Newnan, GA (2009). Coweta County Internet Home Page. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from
Stricevic, Ivanka.  (2004, October). Young Adults As Public Library Users. Young Adult Library Services, 3(1), 40-41.  Retrieved April 28, 2009, from Research Library Core database.
The Coweta County Museum, Newnan Georgia. The History of the African American Alliance in Coweta County, GA. Retrieved on April 22, 2009, from
U.S. Census Bureau American FactFinder. Newnan City, Georgia Population and Housing Narrative Profile: 2005-2007. Retrieved April 11, 2009 from







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