When you take our free docent-led art and architecture tours of the Los Angeles Central Library, we always point out Teen’Scape, one of the nation’s first libraries within a library designed by and exclusively for teens. Architect Robert Coffee created the unique space, which opened in 1998.
How has Coffee’s design weathered the past seventeen years? Mary McCoy, Senior Teen’Scape Librarian, says, "It’s a really nice versatile space that can be different things to different people. It provides quiet study spaces, comfortable lounging, viewing and browsing areas, computer access, as well as room for more formal instruction. And it allows for many types of programming and functions to happen at once. Last weekend, we had an event for 60 people for Teen Read Week, and we used every part of Teen’Scape."
Which facets of Coffee’s original design have lasted and which have gone away? McCoy says, "Walls have been removed dividing the study areas in back, graphic signage has changed, and the audio listening area is long gone. But for the most part, the original design is intact."
Technology has certainly changed since Teen’Scape opened. "The whole notion of putting in a dedicated computer area has shifted," says Coffee. "We were tethered to the electrical and data cabling outlets.” In order to hook up all the computers, we ended up tapping into the conduit that had been constructed for the book-moving system to lay the long runs of computer cabling."
The collaboration proved fruitful for both Coffee and the Central Library. Teen’Scape was such a success that Coffee was immediately asked to design the Singleton Adult Literary Center and the Popular Library, offering high-demand books, magazines, DVDs, and CDs.
Coffee’s firm is now 20 years old, and he continues to work on civic projects. As technology advances, today’s wish lists have changed. Coffee reports that current discussions on library design focus on how much space to dedicate to analog books versus digital resources.
But as Mary McCoy points out, no one foresaw the explosion in Young Adult publishing, and analog books are still key to the Teen’Scape environment. "Thanks to books like Twilight and Hunger Games and the like, the amount of YA books has doubled, and we have to be very creative to maximize our existing bookshelf space."
Looking back, Coffee reflects, "Teen’Scape was a great opportunity, and I’m glad to be able to do something that lasted. I visited not too long ago, and I have to say it feels really good to see the space still being used pretty much as we envisioned it."
So, the audio listening area may have gone the way of the phone booth, but Mary McCoy says, "The basic layout has really stood the test of time."
—Written by library docent Karina Buck
—All photos courtesy of Karina Buck