Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Young adult architecture

Hamilton Grange Library teenspace, by Rice+Lipka Architects. Photo by Michael Moran.

Public libraries offer teenagers space where no one tells them to sit up straight or be quiet

In 1978, South Kingston High librarian Linda Wood decided to remake a room at the Rhode Island school into something she called the Un-Commons: a furniture-less room with cushions on the floor, album covers mounted on the walls, 10 headphone jacks, and stacks of paperbacks, from science fiction and fantasy to mystery and romance.

Teens with a free period could choose a record, sign out headphones, and just chill out. The books didn’t even require a sign-out slip.

“The magic happens because there is hardly a teenager alive who isn’t ‘into’ music,” wrote Wood in the Wilson Library Bulletin. “While their parents shake their heads in disbelief, teenagers manage to read, study, write research papers, and do calculus, all to the beat of rock.”

Forty years later, Wood’s son Dan would have his chance to make an Un-Commons: a teen corner, tucked behind a bookshelf, at the back of the Kew Gardens Hills Library, in Queens, designed by his firm, WORKac, and opened in 2017. “The teen space was one of the reasons why they wanted to expand the library; it was the only new program they were adding,” he says.