‘Making Space for Young Adults in Public Libraries’ is Making Waves in Research Practices


Led by Dr. Anthony Bernier of the SJSU information school, the “Making Space for Young Adults in Public Libraries” research project is featured in a number of prestigious recent and forthcoming publications.

The research project, “Making Space for Young Adults in Public Libraries: Establishing a Research Foundation,” is winding down to a close this fall, but not before influencing the public library sphere with a number of prestigious recent and forthcoming publications.

Led by principal investigator Dr. Anthony Bernier of the San José State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science, the “Making Space” investigation of new and recently renovated young adult (YA) public library spaces graced the cover of the May/June 2014 issue of the peer-reviewed Public Libraries magazine.

The Public Libraries piece, “Learning from Librarians and Teens about YA Library Spaces,” uses empirical research about YA spaces currently in use to analyze a number of important aspects of YA library usage, including how YA-designated library spaces are used and the ways in which librarians’ and teens’ perceptions of library spaces differ.

Bernier, an associate professor at the SJSU information school, authored the article with two SJSU graduate students and a faculty member from Drexel University: L. Meghann Kuhlmann, a recent graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program; Jonathan Pacheco Bell, a current MLIS student; and Dr. Denise Agosto, an associate professor.

The research team’s work will also be featured in the July/August issue of Public Libraries. According to Bernier, they have been very productive in terms of disseminating their research findings. “Our team has articles already either published or accepted for publication in four peer-reviewed publications and have already made, or had accepted, presentations at six conferences, including two international conferences.”

In addition to these achievements, Bernier said that the researchers have three additional articles in the works, and the data from the “Making Space” study will be available for public access shortly. “We are working hard to mount the entire project’s data on the website YouthFacts.org, so that students and researchers can utilize it in the future,” said Bernier.

Before Bernier and the research team began the study, very little of the writing about public library spaces for young adults was based on empirical research. The “Making Space” researchers sought to remedy this by fielding a nation-wide survey, by analyzing video footage of YA spaces created by both librarians and teen library users, and by replicating and analyzing YA spaces in the 3D virtual world Second Life.

The grant-funded study has been unique in its approach, its findings, and in using direct youth participation. According to Bernier, 11 SJSU graduate students were employed as research assistants over the course of the project, and have appeared as authors, co-authors, and conference presenters as a result of their contributions to the research team. “These students will take enriched research skills and experiences beyond their classroom work out into their future appointments,” said Bernier.

Upon reflection of the researchers’ contributions to our communities as part of the “Making Space” project, Bernier added, “It has been my privilege to serve as the principal investigator on a National Leadership Grant project addressing the historic marginalization of young people in public libraries.”

The multi-year project, funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), began in 2010 and was originally scheduled to conclude in fall 2013. Receiving a one-year extension, the “Making Space” project will now be completed in November 2014.