Evanston Library’s teen space receives national recognition

Dana Molina

After school, while his classmates head home, Konnor Malone, 13, heads to the Evanston Public Library to hang out and study in the Loft, the library’s room for teens.

“It’s fun,” said Malone, a student at Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School, 3701 Davis St. in Skokie. “I like the entire room. I just like being here. I’ll do my homework, and I’ll get on a computer.”

The Loft, which opened last August, offers a place for Evanston teenagers in grades six to 12 to do homework, group projects, reading and other programs. The room was recently chosen to receive an award for excellence in library interior design. Awarded by the Library Administration and Management Association and the International Interior Design Association, the competition is held every other year and recognizes excellence in interior design, incorporating aesthetics, design creativity, function, and satisfaction.

“It’s the library equivalent of a Grammy or Oscar,” said Young Adult Librarian Christie Chandler-Stahl.

The library decided to create the room to provide more services to teenagers, Chandler-Stahl said.

“There’s a big push with the Young Adult Library Services Association to provide teen-friendly spaces,” she said. “The children’s collection section was outgrowing in space so that was the initial impetus to expand that. And with that came a decision to create a unique and dedicated teen space.”

Members of the library’s Teen Advisory Board, a group of teenagers who meet monthly to discuss books and plan events, worked with Chandler-Stahl and the architects to design the room.

“I heard everything the teens said,” Chandler-Stahl said. “What I heard is what I see.”

The walls are painted in sections that vary between shades of green, bright yellow, light gray with white polka dots, or light brown with letters and numbers. Spherical white lamps of different sizes light the room. The bookshelves alternate between yellow and light gray.

The design offers a more lively and energetic environment, said Hannah Letchinger, a member of the Teen Advisory Board.

“There was kind of an argument if we wanted it to blend in with the rest of the library,” she said. “It’s much different than the brown and the wood from the library.”

The Loft offers two group study rooms, the Basement and the Attic. Both are equipped with two round yellow tables, bright green chairs and a large L-shaped couch. Near the entrance of the Loft are four panel screens, an open area used for performances and various computer stations. Near the back of the room, a metal chain curtain displaying an exclamation point marks the entrance to the Loft’s lounge. Inside the lounge are small bookshelves, patterned couches, bean bag chairs and small oval-shaped seats.

“I come almost every day, ” said Justin Wilson, 17. “It’s a quiet place where people can just hang out with their friends.”

The Loft also offers programs for teenagers, including movie screenings, monthly game nights, book talks, visits from authors and workshops.

“It’s incredible,” Letchinger said. “I had no idea so many people would be coming. It’s a lot more that we expected the room to be used for.”

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