First Person: Why Libraries Are Important for Teens

By Laura Ozoria, Teen Civics Ambassador at Macomb's Bridge Library
June 15, 2023
A group of Teen Ambassadors holding holding advocacy signs in front of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

A group of Teen Ambassadors in front of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

A group of three teens looking at the camera

The author (center) with fellow Teen Ambassadors at Macomb's Bridge Library

NYC's public libraries are currently facing a devastating $58.3 million budget cut. Read this 2023 blog post from one of our Teen Civic Ambassadors and speak out against budget cuts.

Coming to the United States during my senior year of high school from the Dominican Republic was a complete 180-degree change in my life. After I moved, I looked for opportunities to feel like I belonged. Becoming a Teen Civics Ambassador at NYPL was one of these opportunities, and it has led to personal growth that I did not expect at this stage of my life. The community I desired came to me without me searching for it, which was amusing given my preconceived notion about "boring" libraries as portrayed in movies and TV shows. In reality, libraries are hidden treasures with boundless resources providing people of all ages with access to knowledge, resources, and opportunities. This is especially true for teens, who are still figuring out who they are and what they want to accomplish with their lives. As a society, we must understand the importance of libraries in molding the future of our youth.

The front of a building with words "Teen Center" on glass

The Macomb's Bridge Library Teen Center

The New York Public Library offers essential resources to teens across the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. The Library provides a variety of events and services designed exclusively for youth. For example, the Library has after-school homework assistance and tutoring, as well as college and job preparedness courses. Also, libraries are vital community centers as well as venues to access resources. They provide a secure and welcoming environment for teens to interact with their friends and participate in social activities. I’ve personally experienced this at the branch where I have been working. One day the teen patrons were playing different games, and a couple of minutes later, we were all engaged in a resume workshop to learn how to shape it around our skills and interests, helping us find jobs as teenagers. This is a clear example of how libraries respond to the needs of youth.

Unfortunately, despite the clear value of libraries, many are facing budget cuts and reduced funding from local governments. Right now, New York City’s public libraries are facing a potential cut of about $36.2 million due to the city’s budget readjustment. This would mean a significant impact on not only teenagers but also all the members of the communities who rely on the Library for academic and personal growth. At the same time, Teen Centers have been recently inaugurated in some branches of our city's public libraries where teens can find different resources to develop their creative and logical skills, such as tools for content creation, 3-D printers for projects, and renovated technology, among other amazing and useful things. Therefore, cutting the budget would disable the effort put into creating these spaces since all of the new items would eventually need maintenance or new materials to work. 

A group of teens clustered around a small table working on a project

The author working with her peers during a resume-building workshop at the Macomb's Bridge Library

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans believe that libraries are important for their communities, and 69% believe that closing their local library would have a major impact on their community. This indicates that the vast majority of people recognize the value of libraries and the role they play in society. For instance, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, library services have a significant impact on literacy, school readiness, and academic achievement. The study also found that libraries help bridge the digital divide by providing access to technology and digital resources. This is especially important for teenagers, who are increasingly reliant on technology for academic and personal purposes. Libraries are essential to closing the educational gap. There are a lot of families that don’t have access to an internet connection or technological devices and go to the library to fulfill their daily tasks, do job research, and help the kids study and do their homework.

In conclusion, libraries are crucial for the development and well-being of teenagers and everyone in the community. They provide access to resources, technology, and opportunities for personal and academic growth. The New York Public Library offers a wide range of programs and services that are specifically designed for every age group. Libraries can also help people find a community and feel like they fit in; just as it happened for me, a lot of people find themselves in similar situations. If every teenager knew about all of the resources our libraries provide, I can assure you that every branch would have a boom again, and teenagers would find the hidden treasure behind them. We must recognize the value of libraries and work to ensure that they receive the necessary funding to continue to serve our community.

At The New York Public Library, we believe what teens have to say matters. Read more from Teen Voices at NYPL.