Athens County teens are a unique and vibrant part of our library communities. Monthly “Teen Stuff” and online calendars sum up all the programs and projects we host just for this age group, and many of our branches now have designated spaces where teens can gather.
Below, ACPL’s Luke Bentley shares about his passion for working with teens and describes the newly revamped Teen Area in Athens, which hosted a grand opening celebration Oct. 25.
ACPL: What made you want to work in libraries and with teens?
Luke: My background is in education, particularly teaching in grades 7-12…What’s great about working in libraries is that I’m still involved in educating and enriching people’s lives, but there are no limits as to what I can do. If someone has a great idea, I can work toward making that happen to the best of my ability. I also think that teens are often under-appreciated by adults, and underrepresented throughout society… I like to take teens seriously, because they deserve to be taken seriously.
I wanted to make the changes in our Teen Space because, to put it simply, I didn’t think it worked as well as it could when it came to welcoming teens and making them comfortable. I want teens from all over Athens County to know that if they need a sanctuary, or if they just need a place that they can come and be themselves, that this is that space.
The central feature is our set of four, top-of-the-line computers that are reserved specifically for people in grades 7-12. These computers will not only be reserved for usage for teens for most of the day, but they will also be equipped with the Adobe Creative Cloud, a suite of digital creation programs including Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Animate, and many other programs for image editing, video editing, audio editing, and more. You can also expect to be able to give your input on how you want the space to shift and change, and what you’d like to see displayed.
In a world without limits, I would love to have regular programs where teens produce their own podcasts and YouTube videos, learn screenwriting and animation, or design their own video games and apps. I’d also love for teens to come to me and tell me what their passions are, and what kind of programs they themselves want to run here in the library, and I’d do whatever I could to help!
I visited Athens Middle School recently, and it was just fantastic to see all the teens who are so passionate about reading, and passionate about creating. I was walking through the halls after promoting our upcoming in-school program called Young Adult Book Club, and I overheard a group of students talking about how excited they were to come, and asking everyone else if they were coming. Of course, I look forward to making more memorable moments when YABC starts!