Novi library offers after-school place for teens

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published October 26, 2022

 Rida Salim, student representative with the Novi Public Library board, plays cornhole at the library’s after-school Teen Space.

Rida Salim, student representative with the Novi Public Library board, plays cornhole at the library’s after-school Teen Space.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

NOVI — Fall has brought the return of the Teen Space at the Novi Public Library. The space offers teens a venue to enjoy the company of their peers, do homework or play games in a monitored setting.

Library Director Julie Farkas said the Teen Space was developed 10 years ago to meet the needs of middle school and high school students. According to Farkas, the concept for Teen Space was derived from what teens said they wanted from the library during focus groups in 2010. The space is located just to the side of the café and features a pingpong table, and it offers other games such as corn hole, board games and video games. The space is designed for the teens to interact with each other and study.    

“It might seem like a unique purpose for the public library to serve as ‘a place for socialization and hanging out,’ but it’s what the teens wanted when we opened the new library building in 2010,” said Farkas. “Therefore, NPL wanted to meet their needs as well as those of other community members.”

She said that the library’s location next to the high school has contributed to it being a safe and convenient location for teens to hang out and socialize after school.

Mahalakshmi Sridharan, 14, a student at Novi High School, agreed. She said the space helps kids in middle school to relax, finish homework and have fun.

“My favorite thing about Teen Space is that you can ask for help from others so you can finish your homework accurately,” said Sridharan. “If you want to finish your homework, have fun with friends, and relax after a long day of school, then Teen Space is the place to go.”

According to Farkas, the Novi Public Library is able to host Teen Space because the library is perceived as a community gathering place rather than a quiet place. She said they do have quiet places for people to enjoy, such as the second floor and study rooms. However, the first floor is designed for heavier activity.

“The staff at NPL believe the space has provided a safe space for kids to hang out and socialize and gives them a place to study and enjoy interacting with each other. When a student has a reading or information need, the opportunity presents itself positively for engaging in serving their needs,” said Farkas. “It has given an opportunity to engage with the teens who may have otherwise not thought of the public library in their daily routine. The motto at NPL is ‘Inform. Inspire. Include.’ It is in following this motto that we continue to connect our teen population to the many services, resources and information that is available to them when they are in need of it.”

Farkas said the library has occasionally brought in speakers on subjects geared for the teens, such as Novi Youth Assistance and the Novi Community Coalition. The library also hosts meetings of teen clubs that are associated with the high school.  Farkas said that local leadership such as district Superintendent Ben Mainka and Police Chief Erick Zinser often stop by to say hello and connect with the teens.

“This gives an opportunity to build relationships with the teens as well,” Farkas said.

According to Farkas, an average of 100 students utilize the space per week. The program is supervised by Yolanda Hockaday-Dennis. Farkas said Hockaday-Dennis greets and serves as host to the teens daily, offering activities as well as guidance and friendship.

Teen Space is open 2:45-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.