Jan. 2 – SCRANTON – When Skyler Learned discovered the Scranton Public Library’s new Teen Learning Lounge, he quickly became a regular.
He found it a welcoming place to make new friends and get away from his home life, he said.
“Wait,” the 15-year-old from Scranton said, laughing after realizing his words could be misconstrued. “My life at home is great. I just want to get away from my parents sometimes, and sometimes they need a break from me.”
Located in the Technology Lab in the basement of the Lackawanna County Children’s Library at 520 Vine St., the Teen Learning Lounge is a community space with computers, video game consoles and board games that teens can use to learn, entertain and spend time with friends.
When the library began rebuilding its youth program in the summer after the pandemic, there wasn’t an ideal place to do it, said Briana Cimino, who was hired in early 2022 as the library’s young adult coordinator.
The basement area of the children’s library used to serve as a computer room and office and wasn’t really conducive to her imagination, she said.
The library applied for and received a $10,000 Community Needs Grant from the Scranton Area Community Foundation to renovate and redecorate the former laboratory. The result is a lounge-like space that teens can feel comfortable in and that can be adapted to accommodate a variety of activities, Cimino said.
The lounge, which opened in mid-November, fills a need in the Scranton area, she said.
“My take on this is that there are very few areas dedicated to teenagers that are free and open to everyone,” Cimino said. “Of course there are youth centers and churches, but these are very specific places for certain groups of people, and then there are paid places like arcades and cafes.
“I wanted the public library to be a free and inclusive place for teenagers, no matter who they are or what background, and one that gives our area’s teens the opportunity to spend time together in this type of space.”
The lounge offers free programs for teens ages 12 to 18 every Monday night the library is open, ranging from game nights to writing classes, Cimino said.
Some are recurring programs, like the library’s Teen Anime Club meetings, while others are one-offs, like special seasonal programs, she said.
“All kinds of things happen here,” Cimino said.
Omari Stafford, 14, of Old Forge, said she first came to the library for a “true crime” program that required her other teenage participants to tire print and solve a crime while learning about criminology.
Like her friend Skyler, whom she met in the lounge, she is now a regular visitor. She especially enjoys playing games with other teenagers.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s just fun to be here. You have a few friends and no parents. Sometimes you need a break from ‘do your homework’ or ‘go clean the kitchen’.”
Although the library will initially have access to the Learning Lounge for its programs, it is open to the public for reservations, including for activities such as tutoring or field trips, Cimino said.
The Teen Learning Lounge Grand Opening, postponed from December 5th, is now scheduled for January 9th from 6:00pm to 7:30pm. Cimino said teens and their families are invited to stop by, tour the space, and play games on the library’s Nintendo Switch or the new virtual reality console, the Oculus Meta Quest 2.
“Another thing I wanted to do with this space was to have these play systems because we have a lot of kids that come from families that might not have the money to buy those,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for them to go somewhere and play things like that.”
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