Edendale Branch Library on Sunset Boulevard is open to the public six days a week and hosts various events for individuals of all age ranges. From arts and crafts events to summer reading challenges, this library has cultivated an environment that prioritizes welcoming everybody.
Mari Jack, the teen librarian of the Edendale branch, focuses on engaging the young adults of the community. She aims to provide a safe space for teenagers to thrive and has implemented an involved volunteer program, weekly YA book discussions and other youth-centered events.
To get inspiration, Jack asks her teen volunteers on the first Tuesday of every month what they want to do. Whether it be which books they want to order to what events they want to host, these teenagers have voice in the decisions that Jack makes.
“I just want to provide them with a laid back space where they can hang out and have a good time,” Jack said. “I remember what it was like being a teen; I don’t like it [the library] being [like] a school environment.”
Jack is a UCLA alumna and received her masters degree there. After receiving her degree, she began working as a substitute teacher for a duration of seven years. Her work with high school students as a teacher helped her decide that she wanted to continue working with teens as a librarian.
As a librarian, Jack has worked at improving library conditions.
“There is a homeless problem in Los Angeles. There [are] mental illness problems, there are drug problems. It happens everywhere. We do the best we can to make this a safe space for everyone,” Jack said.
There have been disruptions in which librarians have had to call the police.
The teen programs that Jack offers enables students to gain volunteer hours, providing them with the right amount of service learning necessary to fulfill high school requirements.
Jack wanted to help these volunteers create an impressive résumé for college applications and similarly, tries to run her volunteer program similar to a job to prepare these students for the workforce. Many volunteers continue to stay a part of her program, even after their requirements are filled. A teenager, who used to volunteer for Jack, works there now.
The programs have benefited teens in the community since their creation and continue to resonate with the youth.
”You have free access here. You can do anything here,” Gabriela Morales, a rising sophomore at Downtown Magnet High School said. “When I was little, my parents would always bring me here, so as I got older, those memories come back.”