During finals week in January, nearly every seat on the first floor of the Arlington Heights Memorial Librarywas taken by high school teens, working in study groups.
That only confirmed what library officials have believed for some time: One of their most important constituencies is teens.
The library is in the process of doubling the size of the teen section, with The Hub set to open in April. It's part of a $2.8 million renovation that is helping to redefine the library space -- as determined by users.
"Teens are a huge market for us," says Debbie Smart, library trustee. "We've seen a real void in the community with the closing of the Teen Center."
The library's new space will have conversation or study groupings with movable chairs, as well as the latest technology, from laptops to iPads to board game tables and an area to screen movies.
The library also will have 11 more group study rooms on the second floor for students, with interactive whiteboards that allows them to not only write notes for the group, but print them out when they're done.
And it's not just new rooms and equipment, Smart adds. Library officials worked with the library's Readers Advisory Group and determined there wasn't enough art from different age groups featured in the library.
Enter teen librarian Tom Spicer. Working through a Facebook page set up for The Hub, Spicer conceived the Design Out Loud contest for teens to decorate and take ownership of their new space.
He recently announced the winners: Marissa Allen of Hersey High School for her work, "Possibilities;" Joohyuk Lee of Thomas Middle School for "Master Chief;" Reed Skocz of Prospect High School for "Untitled;" and St. Viator junior Kristen Yi for "Rooted in Knowledge."
"We worked with our architects and designers to work the images into the new space," Spicer says. "The teens submitted pieces that reflected their own insights, interests and passion. We received art based on music, social and global issues, popular culture and self-portraits."
Joohyuk Lee used the stippling technique, or shading with dots, to design his image.
"The image is of the character Master Chief, who is in a science fiction game," he says. "I thought the library would appreciate having some more science fiction images."
By contrast, Kristen Yi chose a more conventional design. "Rooted in Knowledge" shows the proverbial book of knowledge as a tree, with books stacked to form its trunk, and its branches in different stages of blooming.
"I love to read -- and I read through every season," she says. "My family spends a lot of time at the library, so I thought it would be exciting to try and have some of my art displayed there."
Spicer says the contest drew 28 submissions in all from junior high and high school artists from five different schools.
"I really enjoyed the submissions," Spicer said, "and I think the level of artistry speaks for itself when you look at the four winners."