Last week at the library was quite eventful! Tuesday morning we met with K-Fai, the library staff person who runs the Hot Spot at the Village of the Arts and Humanities on Germantown Ave in North Philadelphia and supervises the teen space after school in the central branch of the Free Library. She gave us a lot of great insight into how she sees things working at the library and ways to engage the teens we would be working with. We got a great tour of the Village space, heard all about the programs it offers to the local community and its plans for the future. Since K-Fai works at the Village but through the Library she has a nice perspective with a foot in both worlds, the Library system and the outside organization.
After meeting with her, we traveled back to the Library where we met Andrea, the head librarian in the Popular Library in Philbrick hall where the teen space is housed. We told her about our plan to create and installation in the teen space with hanging images of possibilities that the teens could see in the space and collages made by the teens. They would be able to vote using red or green stickers on things they liked or didn’t like about the images presented and created by their peers. We wanted to talk with Andrea about the set up of the installation and how it would work. She was very excited and receptive to our ideas and willing to give us a try.
Next we move on to Teen Tuesday. After speaking with Aurora, the staff person who runs Teen Tuesday, we arranged to do a collaging activity with the teens. We gathered a bunch of free catalogs and printed photos from the internet of things that were in previous research studies and some assumptions about what teens would want to do in their space. This is where the Action Research comes in because we took an action in order to further our research. That action informs a type of feedback which we consider when moving forward. It is the best way to hear and see what the teens are doing and saying in the moment without looking at secondary research of words on a page.
We didn’t get as many collage participants as we had hoped for at Teen Tuesday. The venue was more of a space for the teens to just hang out, eat and play video games. This is a social time for them that has little to no programming. It was hard to engage teens in that setting, but we still got about 7 to 10 collages out of the 40 or so teens that were present.
The day after Teen Tuesday we set up an installation in the Teen space at the Library using cardboard stands and yarn to hang the images and collages. We designed signs that were worded clearly for the teens to understand. We cut the red and green stickers into strips of 4 that were combined with a little note that explained what to do with them. After setting up we left all of the materials for K-Fai to create more collages with the teens after school without us being present. She was very excited to be included in the making and engaging of the teens.
Fast forward one week, and we got a lot of great feedback and responses. The teens even used post its and papers to write specific ideas they could not illustrate. It was great to see the level of engagement. Andrea asked that we keep the installation up into the next couple weeks while school let out and a new group of teens start using the space. The response was great and we are excited to see where this leads. It already has started debunking some of the misconceptions we had about what teens want to see and do in the space.
We compiled the images from this process and made a small booklet that illustrates the steps we took to prototype this installation and action research method. We hope it will help others to understand how and why we performed this type of research and what it taught us.