STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK
Eva Hatzenbuehler and Hannah Dayton plopped into two pillowy gold egg chairs and began pointing out all the things they were proud of: The powder blue couch they found on Wayfair.com, succulent cactus throw pillows to spice it up, a weeping willow lamp, a line of computers looking out on Main Street and the foothills beyond and stacks of books picked out with teens in mind.
This is Imagine Nation—a new space at the Hailey Public Library designed for teens by teens.
And the teens who dreamed, designed and decorated it will throw a Community Block party from 5 to 7 pm Thursday, Aug. 11, to dedicate the space on the southeast corner of the library and introduce it to the community.
The teens were quick to snatch up a car rug because “they’re just so fun,” according to Hatzenbuehler.
The party will include spikeball and other games, music, karaoke, food, Boba tea, snow cones, popcorn popped in an old popcorn machine the teenagers found in the basement of the library and raffle prizes.
“It means so much,” said Hatzenbuehler, who co-led the project with Dayton. “It gives teens a space to kinda be themselves. It gives teens who might need to Escape a place where they can come.”
The project originated when Hailey Public Library Director Lyn Drewien secured a grant from the Idaho Office of Drug Policy. The grant was to be used to create environments and activities that could provide teens with a place to go and a place to stay out of trouble.
Two teen interns–Hannah Dayton and Eva Hatzenbuehler—convened a group of about 20 middle school and high school students in mid-April. Together they began plotting what they wanted to create in a room that originally contained little more than a couple of tables, one computer and books.
Eva Hatzenbuehler shows off Computer Row, where teens can study or google information on the newest air buds.
“We wanted a comfortable place where teenagers can come after school. We wanted comfort and inclusivity,” said Dayton.
With the help of two advisers–librarian Lee Dabney and Colleen Clark from The Advocates—the teens painted the walls white and the trim blue. And they scoured local thrift stores for things to personalize the space, finding paper lanterns they hung from the ceiling and plastic vines that light up as they hang down a window looking onto the rest of the library.
“We jumped at the car rug—they’re so fun,” said Hatzenbuehler. “And we were so excited when we found the lava lamps. We want to grow our lava lamp collection. I have one in my room that I’ve had for years and I love it.”
The teens filled a cupboard with such games as Operation Battleship, 52n.d Rule, Stratego, Harry Potter and Boggle. And they added magic markers, coloring books and a selection of model cars and VW bugs and vans.
Hannah Dayton shows off the powder blue couch that is the teens’ pride and joy.
Eventually, they hope to hang a “warm, fuzzy, spreading-kindness” affirmation board.
Librarians have filled shelves with books popular with teens, including graphic novels, dystopian novels and books addressing LBGTQ issues, although Hatzenbuehler admits she just finished “The DaVinci Code” which her father had recommended.
The space comes with an admonition to those who would enter: “All are welcome to browse, but if you are not a teen or tween, please find another space to Hang out in the library.”
Already, the room has attracted a number of teenagers, including a group from The Space after school Tutoring center.
The egg chairs sit next to the game cupboard.
“We’re excited because often this age group stops using the library,” said Dabney. “I am biased, but I think these teens have done a terrific job. I hope it will be fun for smaller kids to peek in, that they’ll say, ‘I can’t wait until I’m old enough to get to Hang out there.’ ”
In the meantime, the teens are happy with what they’ve accomplished.
“I love it,” said Hatzenbuehler.
“I’m proud of it,” said Dayton.