Renee Neumeier is making big changes and powerful connections as Evanston Public Library’s young adult librarian. She has been working in conjunction with local businesses and institutions to plan events designed to change young people’s perceptions of libraries and to reach out to teens who might not know about the many services, resources and programs the Library offers.
“These events draw in teens who might not be regular users. They are a pathway to get teens into the Library. Once teens come in for a program, they can meet the staff, see the space, and will be more likely to come back again or check out a few books,” Ms. Neumeier says. “They see that the Library is a safe space, somewhere to turn when their school libraries are closed.”
Through her leadership of the Loft, a separate space just for teens at EPL, Ms. Neumeier says she has learned much about the diverse needs of Evanston youth.
She says, “Some kids have all the latest technology and gadgets and others don’t have regular access to the Internet at home. Some teens are voracious readers and others haven’t enjoyed reading a book in a few years.
“Some teens come from a family of regular library-users and other don’t. It’s our job to level the playing field for teens in Evanston to give them access to the equipment and technology they need to do their homework or just to watch some YouTube videos.
“We want them to be excited about reading again and let them know that the Library is a great place with great resources.”
To encourage return visits, Ms. Neumeier runs several weekly events. One is meditation every Monday from 5 to 6 p.m., in which Heartwood Center for Body Mind Fitness meditation instructor Nancy Floy teaches teens how to relieve stress.
On Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m., FUSE Studio (formerly YouSTEM) of Northwestern University’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships allows students to use the Library’s 3D design software and printer to program a robot or to design clothes with conductive thread and LED lights.
A recent partnership with Malik Turley of Evanston’s Hip Circle Studio has introduced teens to belly dance and Pilates in the Community Room of the Main Library. Registration for these free classes (Nov. 24, belly dance; Dec. 15, Pilates)is at epl.org/teens.
Coming up on Dec. 12, the Teen Loft will be hosting “Teen Loveline,” an event created in partnership with City of Evanston’s Health Department and Evanston Hospital, specifically for high schoolers. A panel of doctors and psychologists will answer anonymous questions about dating and sexual health.
“Loveline” will run from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Community Room at the Main Library. Students should register online in advance; they also may submit their questions ahead of time on EPL’s teen website.
On Dec. 14, The Loft will offer a DIY Gifts on the Go workshop, in which creative young adults can create their own soaps, ornaments, and wrapping paper as homemade gifts for the holidays. Teens are encouraged to come from 3 to 4 p.m.
Ms. Neumeier says, “It’s all part of this idea of positive association. If teens come to the Library, whatever the reason, and they enjoy their time here, they will want to come back. And through loving the library, reading itself can grow into a lifelong passion.”
Anyone wishing more information on Teen Programming may go to epl.org/teens or contact Renee Neumeier at email@example.com.