teen space

The Dodds Family Teen Space is shown Friday at the Champaign Public Library.

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CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign Public Library hopes to add a new $2.5 million activity space for teens and preteens, to open in the spring of 2023.

Library Director Donna Pittman will ask the city council to endorse a $1.5 million transfer from the city’s general-fund balance to cover part of the cost of the project, and said the Champaign Public Library Foundation has committed the remaining $1 million.

The new 8,000-square-foot center, to be called The Studio, would be built in part of what is now a storage area on the lower level, and it would provide multiple spaces and activities to keep students busy and learning new things when they’re not in school, Pittman said.

“The area would be transformed into an attractive, colorful space that would include a maker space, a recording studio, a gaming and virtual-reality area, and a technology area. It would also allow for study, computer use, collaboration and performance,” Pittman said in a memo to the council.

Preliminary plans for activities would include music, technology, exploration of art, photography and digital art, with access to arts-andcrafts supplies, music and video production, virtual-reality equipment, robotics, coding, 3-D printing and fabrication, she said.

With Edison Middle School for a neighbor, the library has been an after-school gathering spot for students since the 1970s.

But in the past five years, the number of students gravitating to the library after school has risen from an average 100 a day to double that number — at least pre-pandemic, Pittman said.

Since August, youths 15 and under have been required to have a parent or adult caregiver with them at the library due to the inability of the library staff to keep large numbers of teens safely distanced and masked, she said.

The library currently includes a teen space with computers and a teen book collection that can accommodate up to 50 students at a time and adjacent tables and chairs for another 32 students, according to Pittman.

The library has also used its largest multipurpose meeting room as an after-school space with activities, primarily for middle school students.

That same space is also used for other activities, though, so it must be set up and torn down each day school is in session. And using it for after-school activities also leaves it unavailable for others who want to reserve it, according to Pittman.

The Studio — which would include seating for up to 150 and could potentially hold up to 400 — could also double as a space for other activities while kids are in school, she said.

When the library was first built, the basement was intended to be a space where the library could expand. Library officials see an activity space for teens and preteens as an excellent use of some of that space, Pittman said.

“It just allows us to offer so much to kids and adults when they use the library,” she said.

Based on the direction provided by the city council at its upcoming study session Tuesday, library officials hope to work with the city administration on a budget amendment to be brought back to the council for formal approval in February.

Pittman said the hope is to have The Studio under construction by this fall.

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