By Lindsay Benson
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
The East Lansing Public Library has made improvements to its teen after-school center, a place for East Lansing High School students.
In partnership with the All Saints Episcopal Church, there are programs for teens Monday to Friday, from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Teens can go to the church for an open hangout space and a free meal on Mondays and Tuesdays. From Wednesday through Friday, teens can go to special rooms in the library, open for teens to talk freely without disrupting library patrons. Depending on the day, the library provides snacks and activities including computer time, video games, movies and crafts.
There are tutoring programs hosted by Michigan State University students, as well as East Lansing High School students, including national merit scholars, looking to help their peers.
This new structure to the center has come from hiring Shannon Lake in August as the teen librarian.
“It’s not really a service for us to keep track of the teens, it’s more of a service for us to entertain them, and give them something constructive to do,” Lake said.
MSU biochemistry senior Matthew Smith has been volunteering with the center since last year, and has observed the changes. “I think the big difference was hiring Shannon. She has really put some structure in it.”
Smith added, “there’s a lot more students. Last year there would be six or seven, now there’s 20 to 25.”
Smith said he plans to host science experiments at the library. Experiments such as “Alka-Seltzer in pop, to get kids interested in science.”
Before this center was opened, students would congregate in quieter areas of the library. Teens were often kicked out for being disruptive, sometimes in the cold of winter, with nowhere to go.
“A lot of the students that go to the library are schools of choice, so we can’t walk home, and we can’t catch a bus,” said East Lansing High School junior Rachel Nelson, whom without school of choice would attend Everett High School in Lansing.
“We want to be able to come here and chill with our friends, and be able to socialize,” said Morgan Poole, East Lansing High School sophomore.
“We’ve just come from sitting in class for seven hours, being quiet, and we don’t want to come here and be quiet,” said Nelson.
Poole sees room for improvement; including more room and making the teen area an even more specified space. “I promise they’d get even more of us-as scary as that sounds.”
Nelson, Poole and their sophomore classmate Maggie Pemba feel so deeply about their after-school space, they would go as far to even donating money themselves, or fundraising to improve their area with new televisions and couches. “We’d donate it so future generations can have this,” said Nelson.
The library is open to donations from community members wanting to help better this service.
“If we can get community members that want to donate food or contribute in some kind of way, that would be wonderful, “ said Lake.
The library is located at 950 Abbot Road and the church is across the street at 800 Abbott Road.
“MSU has the Union as their heart of campus,” said Nelson, “and this is our student union. This is the heart of East Lansing High School’s campus.”