Jan. 2—SCRANTON — Once Skyler Learned discovered the Scranton Public Library's new Teen Learning Lounge, he quickly became a regular.
He found it a welcoming place where he could make new friends and get away from his home life, he said.
"Wait," the 15-year-old from Scranton said, laughing, after realizing his words could be taken the wrong way. "My home life is awesome. I just want to get away from my parents sometimes, and sometimes they need a break from me."
Located in the Technology Lab in the basement of the Lackawanna County Children's Library, 520 Vine St., the Teen Learning Lounge is a community space with computers, video game consoles and board games for teenagers to use for study, entertainment and time with friends.
When the library started rebuilding its teen programming post-pandemic over the summer, there wasn't an ideal place for it, said Briana Cimino, who was hired earlier in 2022 as the library's young adult coordinator.
The area in the basement of the Children's Library previously served as a computer lab and office and wasn't really conducive to what she had in mind, she said.
The library applied for and received a $10,000 Community Needs Grant from the Scranton Area Community Foundation to renovate and refurnish the former lab. The result is a lounge-type space where teens can feel comfortable and is adaptable to a variety of activities, Cimino said.
The lounge, which opened in mid-November, fulfills a need in the Scranton area, she said.
"My thought going into this is there are very few spaces dedicated to teenagers that are free and open to everybody," Cimino said. "There are obviously youth shelters and churches, but those are very specific places for specific groups of people, and then you have pay places like arcades and coffee shops.
"I wanted the public library to act as a space that is free and inclusive to teens no matter who they were and what their background was and that gives the teens of our area an opportunity to spend time together in that sort of space."
The lounge offers free programs for youths ages 12-18 every Monday evening that the library is open, ranging from game nights to writing classes, Cimino said.
Some are recurring programs, like the library's Teen Anime Club meetings, while others are one-offs, such as special seasonal programs, she said.
"All different things happen here," Cimino said.
Omari Stafford, 14, Old Forge, said she first came to the library for a "true crime" program in which she other teen participants got to make tire impressions and solve a crime as they learned about criminology.
Like her friend Skyler, whom she met at the lounge, she is now a regular visitor. She especially enjoys playing games with other teens.
"I don't know," she said. "It's kind of just fun to be here. You've got a bunch of friends and no parents. Sometimes you need a break from, 'Go do your homework,' or, 'Go clean the kitchen.'"
Although the library has first dibs on the learning lounge for its programs, it is open to the public for reservations, including for activities such as tutoring or field trips, Cimino said.
The grand opening of the Teen Learning Lounge, which was postponed from Dec. 5, is now scheduled Jan. 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Cimino said teens and their families are invited to stop by, check out the room and play games on the library's Nintendo Switch or its new Oculus Meta Quest 2 virtual reality console.
"Another thing I wanted to do with this space was to have those game systems because we have a lot of kids who come from families that may not have the money to acquire those," she said. "It's an opportunity for them to have somewhere to to go and get to play those sort of things."
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