Teens’ Vision of an Ideal Library Space: Insights from a Small Rural Public Library in the United States


  • Xiaofeng Li Pennsylvania Western University, Clarion, Pennsylvania, United States of America https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2348-3482
  • YooJin Ha Pennsylvania Western University Clarion, Pennsylvania, United States of America
  • Simon Aristeguieta Pennsylvania Western University, Clarion, Pennsylvania, United States of America




Objective – This study delves into the perspectives of teenagers regarding their desired teen space within a small rural public library in the United States.

Methods – To capture the richness of their thoughts, a visual data collection method was employed, wherein 27 8th-grade participants engaged in a drawing activity during an art class at a local middle school. Two additional teens were recruited for individual semi-structured interviews.

Results – Through this creative exercise, the study unveiled the various library activities, amenities, books, and visual designs that resonated with the teens, as they envisioned their ideal teen space.

Conclusion – The study’s findings hold practical implications for librarians working with this population, offering valuable insights to enhance and optimize teen services at the library. By aligning the library’s offerings with the desires of the young patrons, the potential for a thriving and engaging teen community within the library is enhanced.


Download data is not yet available.


Abbas, J., Kimball, M., Bishop, K., & D’Elia, G. (2008). Why youth do not use the public library. Public Libraries, 47(1), 80–86.

Abbas, J., & Koh, K. (2015). Future of library and museum services supporting teen learning: Perceptions of professionals in learning labs and makerspaces. The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 6, 1–24.

Agosto, D. E. (2007). Why do teens use libraries? Results of a public library use survey. Public Libraries, 46(3), 55–62.

Agosto, D. E., Bell, J. P., Bernier, A., & Kuhlmann, M. (2015). “This is our library, and it’s a pretty cool place”: A user-centered study of public library YA spaces. Public Library Quarterly, 34(1), 23–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2015.1000777

Agosto, D. E., & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2005). People, places, and questions: An investigation of the everyday life information-seeking behaviors of urban young adults. Library & Information Science Research, 27(2), 141–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2005.01.002

Agosto, D. E., & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2010). Revamping library services to meet urban teens’ everyday life information needs and preferences. In D. E. Agosto & S. Hughes-Hassell (Eds.), Urban teens in the library: Research and practice (pp. 23–40). American Library Association.

Agosto, D. E., Magee, R. M., Dickard, M., & Forte, A. (2016). Teens, technology, and libraries: An uncertain relationship. The Library Quarterly, 86(3), 248–269. https://doi.org/10.1086/686673

Barriage, S. (2021). Examining young children’s information practices and experiences: A child-centered methodological approach. Library & Information Science Research, 43(3), 101106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2021.101106

Bernier, A. (2010). Spacing out with young adults translating YA space concepts into practice. In D. E. Agosto & S. Hughes-Hassell (Eds.), Urban teens in the library: Research and practice (pp. 113–126). American Library Association.

Bernier, A. (Ed.). (2020). Transforming young adult services (2nd ed.). ALA Neal-Schuman.

Bernier, A., Males, M., & Rickman, C. (2014). “It is silly to hide your most active patrons”: Exploring user participation of library space designs for young adults in the United States. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 84(2), 165–182. https://doi.org/10.1086/675330

Bishop, K., & Bauer, P. (2002). Attracting young adults to public libraries: Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA research grant results. Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, 15(2), 36–44.

Bowler, L., Acker, A., & Chi, Y. (2019). Perspectives on youth data literacy at the public library: Teen services staff speak out. The Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, 10(2), 1–21.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Sage Publications.

Cook, S. J., Parker, R. S., & Pettijohn, C. E. (2005). The public library: An early teen’s perspective. Public Libraries, 44(3), 157–161.

Fischer, R. K. (2015). Rural and small town library management challenges. Public Library Quarterly, 34(4), 354–371. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2015.1106899

Flaherty, M. G., & Miller, D. (2016). Rural public libraries as community change agents: Opportunities for health promotion. Journal of Education for Library & Information Science, 57(2), 143–150. https://doi.org/10.12783/issn.2328-2967/57/2/6

Fleiss, J. L. (1971). Measuring nominal scale agreement among many raters. Psychological Bulletin, 76(5), 378–382. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0031619

Gauntlett, D. (2005). Using creative visual research methods to understand media audiences. MedienPädagogik: Zeitschrift Für Theorie Und Praxis Der Medienbildung, 9, 1–32. https://doi.org/10.21240/mpaed/09/2005.03.29.X

Gibson, A. N., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Bowen, K. (2023). Navigating ‘danger zones’: Social geographies of risk and safety in teens and tweens of color information seeking. Information, Communication & Society, 26(8), 1513–1530. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.2013920

Grove, S. A., & Brasher, N. (2020). The role of rural public libraries in providing access to online government services. Center for Rural Pennsylvania. https://www.rural.pa.gov/getfile.cfm?file=Resources/PDFs/research-report/Rural-Libraries-exec-sum-2020.pdf&view=true

Hartel, J. (2014). Drawing information in the classroom. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 55(1), 83–85.

Howard, V. (2011). What do young teens think about the public library? The Library Quarterly, 81(3), 321–344. https://doi.org/10.1086/660134

Hughes, C., & Boss, S. (2021). How rural public libraries support local economic development in the Mountain Plains. Public Library Quarterly, 40(3), 258–281. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2020.1776554

Kelly, W., McGrath, B., & Hubbard, D. (2023). Starting from ‘scratch’: Building young people’s digital skills through a coding club collaboration with rural public libraries. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 55(2), 487–499. https://doi.org/10.1177/09610006221090953

Knapp, A. A., Hersch, E., Wijaya, C., Herrera, M. A., Kruzan, K. P., Carroll, A. J., Lee, S., Baker, A., Gray, A., Harris, V., Simmons, R., Kour Sodhi, D., Hannah, N., Reddy, M., Karnik, N. S., Smith, J. D., Brown, C. H., & Mohr, D. C. (2023). “The library is so much more than books”: Considerations for the design and implementation of teen digital mental health services in public libraries. Frontiers in Digital Health, 5, 1183319. https://doi.org/10.3389/fdgth.2023.1183319

Lenstra, N., Slater, S., Pollack Porter, K. M., & Umstattd Meyer, M. R. (2022). Rural libraries as resources and partners for outside active play streets. Health Promotion Practice, 15248399211073602. https://doi.org/10.1177/15248399211073602

Li, X., & Todd, R. J. (2019). Makerspace opportunities and desired outcomes: Voices from young people. The Library Quarterly, 89(4), 316–332. https://doi.org/10.1086/704964

Literat, I. (2013). “A pencil for your thoughts”: Participatory drawing as a visual research method with children and youth. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12(1), 84–98. https://doi.org/10.1177/160940691301200143

Mehra, B., Bishop, B. W., & Partee II, R. P. (2017). Small business perspectives on the role of rural libraries in economic development. Library Quarterly, 87(1), 17–35. https://doi.org/10.1086/689312

Meyer, J. (2018). Poverty and public library usage in Iowa. Public Library Quarterly, 37(1), 53–60. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2017.1312193

Meyers, E. (1999). The coolness factor: Ten libraries listen to youth. American Libraries, 30(10), 42–45.

Ornstein, E., & Reid, P. H. (2022). ‘Talk to them like they’re people’: A cross-cultural comparison of teen-centered approaches in public library services. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 54(3), 451–468. https://doi.org/10.1177/09610006211020090

Perryman, C. L., & Jeng, L. H. (2020). Changing models of library education to benefit rural communities. Public Library Quarterly, 39(2), 102–114. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2019.1621736

Powell, T. W., Smith, B. D., Offiong, A., Lewis, Q., Kachingwe, O., LoVette, A., & Hwang, A. (2023). Public librarians: Partners in adolescent health promotion. Public Library Quarterly, 42(4), 361–372. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2022.2107349

Real, B., Bertot, J. C., & Jaeger, P. T. (2014). Rural public libraries and digital inclusion: Issues and challenges. Information Technology & Libraries, 33(1), 6–24. https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v33i1.5141

Real, B., & Rose, R. N. (2017). Rural libraries in the United States: Recent strides, future possibilities, and meeting community needs. ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/pdfs/Rural%20paper%2007-31-2017.pdf

Reid, H., & Howard, V. (2016). Connecting with community: The importance of community engagement in rural public library systems. Public Library Quarterly, 35(3), 188–202. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2016.1210443

Subramaniam, M. (2016). Designing the library of the future for and with teens: Librarians as the “connector” in connected learning. Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults. http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2016/06/designing-the-library-of-the-future-for-and-with-teens-librarians-as-the-connector-in-connected-learning/#_edn7

Subramaniam, M., Scaff, L., Kawas, S., Hoffman, K. M., & Davis, K. (2018). Using technology to support equity and inclusion in youth library programming: Current practices and future opportunities. The Library Quarterly, 88(4), 315–331. https://doi.org/10.1086/699267

Weber, S. (2008). Visual images in research. In J. Knowles & A. Cole, Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues (pp. 42–54). SAGE. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452226545.n4

Woodgate, R. L., Zurba, M., & Tennent, P. (2017). Worth a thousand words? Advantages, challenges and opportunities in working with photovoice as a qualitative research method with youth and their families. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(1), 126–148. https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.1.2659




How to Cite

Li, X., Ha, Y., & Aristeguieta, S. (2023). Teens’ Vision of an Ideal Library Space: Insights from a Small Rural Public Library in the United States. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 18(4), 52–67. https://doi.org/10.18438/eblip30410



Research Articles