Library Opens New Chapter for Teens

Members of the East Hampton Library’s teen advisory board, including, from left, Wells Woolcott, Ashley Simons, Samantha Dossantos, Jackie Chuya, Taylor O’Neil, Gaby Arevalo, and Raquel Burns, helped design the library’s new young-adult room. Christine Sampson

The East Hampton Library is a little more than a week away from unveiling the latest, and last, piece of the overhaul it began in June 2012: a new young adult room in the basement of the building that will be dedicated to serving teenagers who have few places to go for relaxation, recreation, and independent and group studying.

“We’re really here to serve everybody in the community and to fill the needs that they have, including the high school kids,” Dennis Fabiszak, the director of the library, said in an interview last week. “They seem to have been forgotten about in a lot of places, and we’re going to change that.”

The library will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 19 at noon. It will be followed by a pizza-tasting contest and the announcement of the winner of the teen photography contest, for which the library solicited entries over the past few weeks. A large wall mural painted by a group of East Hampton High School art students will also be revealed.

The new young adult room has a bright, earthy, and modern feel to it, with a palette of greens, bamboo accents, crisp lines, and carpeting and countertops made from recycled materials. The concept was chosen not by library officials or architects, but by young people themselves, who convened as the library’s teen advisory board to select the room’s colors, prioritize its amenities, and decide on other elements for the project. They ultimately met twice with professional designers to finalize the plans.

“It feels like an accomplishment,” said Jackie Chuya, 15. “You designed something for yourself and it’s put into the real world.”

Wells Woolcott, 13, added, “It’s something that’s going to last a lot longer than just ourselves. That’s a really great thing.”

Raquel Burns, 18, said everyone started with different opinions for how the room should look. “We came together and made one room that we’re all happy with,” she said. “This room is not just one mind, it’s all of us together. . . . I think that’s cool.”

About a year ago, a group of East Hampton High School seniors penned a letter to the library administration requesting a space there dedicated to teens. They graduated soon afterward, but Mr. Fabiszak said the library jumped into action. It soon received a major gift from the estate of the late George and Teda Balasses, which meant the project could be funded entirely through private sources. Ben Krupinski was the builder, Lee Skolnick was the architect and interior designer, and A.M.G. of Sag Harbor was the woodworker. The entire project totaled about $400,000, including labor, materials, and other donations.

At one point, a concept for a beach-themed room was suggested, but the majority of the teen advisory board wanted something more distinct from the children’s room, which had a similar design.

The 800-square-foot room will feature desktop computers along one wall, as well as laptop computers for students to borrow while they are at the library. Those computers will be outfitted with software chosen by the teen board to complement what they and their peers are learning at school and are interested in outside of academics.

There will be comfortable chairs on one end of the room, and a conference table with a projector at the other end for students who want space to work together on group projects. And, of course, there will be the library’s young adult book collection, which was expanded in anticipation of increased use.

“By providing that space, we feel that it will be used a lot more effectively and there will be more attendance,” Mr. Fabiszak said. “That’s what we have seen with the other spaces we have created.”

And indeed, books remain part of the appeal.

“As an avid reader, I love all the options that are here. . . . I will definitely come here more,” said Gaby Arevalo, 17.

“Teenagers still read, but it is an age where voluntary reading for pleasure does drop off, so it’s important to have a place for them to have materials there, to encourage lifelong reading and learning,” said Lisa Michne, the library’s young adult program director.

She expects the new room to have a wider impact, too.

“It’s a very neutral space. It’s not the school. They’re not being graded. It’s not the sports field,” Ms. Michne said. “Friendships are made here that wouldn’t necessarily normally be made, so it’s kind of cool. You see it every time.”