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When teenage cousins Jen and Yumi Chen walked into the McClatchy Library Friday, Branch Manager Sally McGrath took the girls by the crook of the elbow – one girl on each arm – and led them from the small, crowded foyer and through a wide doorway into the adjacent room: a big, bright new space dedicated to some of McGrath’s favorite library visitors.
“Can you believe it? This is for you now,” McGrath told the teens.
The girls smiled and thanked McGrath as they looked around. They noticed the posters of Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Elvis Presley and others – one for each decade the library has been open – that McGrath bought with her own money to make the space "even more teen friendly.” Their eyes were drawn to the table and chairs – which meant they would no longer be any need to sit in the hallway if they wanted to stay and read a bit.
"This is really cool!" said 19 year old Jen Chen.
The McClatchy Library, at 2112 22nd St., recently sent 3,000 books and DVDs to other libraries to make room for a new space for teens and young adults. The space was designed to allow youth to easily find the books they enjoy, do homework or just hang out for a while.
Before the changes, teens using the McClatchy branch had little more than an 6-foot-by-8-foot wall along a narrow hallway to call their own. There was no seating, other than on the floor, and no room to do homework or use their laptops.
Now, the library boasts a large, open room with four wall sections of eight-foot-tall bookshelves filled with young adult books and a long standalone shelving unit, along with a table and chairs.
Yumi Chen, 18, said she had used the previous teen space many times – without even realizing it.
“I didn’t know it was an area for teens because it was just a wall in the hall,” Chen said. “You’d go pick books and then go somewhere else to read. Now we have the entire room. It’s cool.”
McGrath said that she wanted a larger dedicated space for teenagers to enjoy since she first came to the McClatchy branch nearly two years ago. When she discovered that the Library Facilities Master Plan specifically called for a teen space in every branch, McGrath jumped on the opportunity to make it a reality at McClatchy.
“I’d been talking about it for so long,” McGrath said Friday. “And it wasn’t just me. There were lots of departments involved. Now – hooray! – we have a much better teen area.”
The changes took almost five weeks, McGrath said, and involved the help of many volunteers and some creative rearranging, but no public funds. The most notable change was the removal of those 3,000 books and DVDs – which took some library patrons by surprise.
“I was disheartened to see so many books gone,” said Alice Levine, president of the Friends of McClatchy Library. “I like to browse – physically more than on a computer.”
Library users still have access to the items that were moved, McGrath said, because the library system allows books to float between branches instead of keeping them in individual branch collections.
The McClatchy Library branch is in a large two-story house donated to the public library system by the McClatchy family in 1940. The branch lost use of the second floor in 1969 when it was closed by the fire marshal for safety issues.
Megan Fidell, 40, said she uses the McClatchy library often and the changes she sees in the branch look “really well done.”
“It doesn’t seem that too much was sacrificed for it,” Fidell said Thursday. “I noticed a lot more room for young adults, and that looks great. I’m thrilled it will get a lot of use.”
The second floor is being renovated and is scheduled to reopen this fall, according to the Summer 2012 Friends of McClatchy Library newsletter. When it is completed, it will include a new exterior staircase, a new heating and air conditioning system, meeting rooms and a children’s area.
The McClatchy Library is at 2112 22nd St. and is open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon- 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 1 - 5 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturdays The branch is closed Sundays and Mondays.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.