They used to come in droves.
When the final bell rang at Greenwood Community Middle School, dozens of students would go out the doors, walk about 100 feet and spend their afternoon at the Greenwood Public Library, playing games, doing homework and socializing. Librarians built programming around them for a decade.
Now, immediately after school, librarians have adjusted to a new normal of only a few teens showing up, since the students started attending class at their new middle school across town.
Library workers have revamped the teen room at the library in an effort to lure more teens back into the library at a time that works for them with programming that they will want to attend, librarians said.
“That is when we would get a lot, when we were right next to them,” teen librarian Jessica Smith said.
The teen program is about a decade old and was built around an easy audience of teens being right next door, said Emily Ellis, assistant director of the library.
Once the teens were no longer a guaranteed audience right next door, the programming needed to be re-examined with new priories identified, she said.
The centerpiece of the revamped room, now called TeenHQ, is offering more specific programs during the evening hours to give middle-schoolers time to get to the library, Ellis said.
“We kind of took a step back and said ‘OK, what are our priorities now?’” Ellis said.
They created an afterschool hangout, where Our Lady of The Greenwood students and home school students may gather. Some teens can get to the library right after school from the middle school, now on Averitt Road.
Now, most of the programming starts at 6 p.m. on weeknights or is offered on Saturdays, and is more focused, such as having a teen tell about his time in Japan or teaching students how to paint like a famous painter.
“We have tried to move what we have done to bring in new people,” Smith said.
This fall’s revamp of the teen room comes on the heels of a larger renovation in 2015, when rooms were painted, features moved and activity walls added, Ellis said.
“If you don’t make changes to the displays enough, they just stop looking,” she said.
And librarians see their job as giving teens the resources they need to become lifelong readers.
“They are growing up and making decisions, and we want them to be lifelong readers,” she said. “We see the teen room as an opportunity to do that.”