By Kelly Youngblood
The Champaign Public Library is planning to build a bigger and better programming space for teens to meet, learn and grow.
The new space, which will be called The Studio, will be built in the lower level of the library and will encompass 8,000 square feet. The area will be a dedicated spot for after-school activities and programs for teens.
Brittany Millington, deputy director of the Champaign Public Library, said the new space will allow the library to enhance and expand current offerings to teens and to keep them engaged.
“By designating 8,000 square feet to this effort I think we’ll be able to expand (current) offerings which is really just so much fun to be able to do that,” she said. “We’re already running these (teen) programs but we will be able to expand on that and think a little bit bigger with this space.”
Millington added, “We know that in the community there is a need to keep our teens engaged and excited, demonstrate to them that there are so many opportunities for them to grow as a person and for them to develop skill sets. And that’s what I think we’re really hopeful to do with this space.”
The Studio will include individual areas for different programming and each area will be suitable for instruction as well.
Those areas will include a makers’ space for crafting, 3D printing, and sewing; a tech space for general computer use as well as coding and robotics; a production studio complete with a green screen for video and music production; and a gaming area with multiple screens and relaxed seating.
Millington noted the current Teen Space, which is near the children’s area and houses the teen collection and computers for teens, will remain the same.
Millington said talks about expanding the area for teens began a couple of years ago, when they saw a need to expand the area to accommodate the number of teen visitors the library saw each day.
“One of the reasons that we recognized this need (before the pandemic) is we were regularly seeing between 200-250 teens after school for those after-school activities,” she said.
Recently, they started to think more specifically about what they can do and how to develop it.
“Once we started to think about it the stars really aligned and the community really rallied with support behind it.”
The library currently uses the community meeting rooms on the main level for after-school activities, but those rooms are in heavy demand. Millington said they wanted to be able to free up that space for more in the community to utilize.
“That design space is going to do a lot of great things. It’s going to be a great spot for teens to visit after school for activities and then again freeing up the meeting rooms and the general main level will probably see a little less congestion because the kids will have a really awesome design spot down there (on the lower level),” she said.
Currently the lower level is used for storage, office space, and the library’s conveyor belt system. It’s only accessible by elevator but the renovation will include a stairway to the lower level.
Millington, who has been at CPL for about five years, said the construction of the library in 2008 included the foresight to accommodate a space in the lower level.
“When the building was first built there was this thought, ‘Let’s go ahead and put in a lower level. We’re not quite sure why we might need it but one day we might need it,’ and here we are,” she said.
Currently the project is in the design phase with work expected to begin in September. The tentative completion date is March of 2023.
The project is being funded through city and private support. The Champaign Public Library Foundation was able to raise $1 million in private donations and the City of Champaign approved $1.5 million for the project.