February 16, 2018

Karl Kendall | Movers & Shakers 2004

Giving Teens a Chance


Karl Kendall knows that while comic books, computers, and daily movies will grab teens’ interest, what they long for most is respect. As head of Teen Central, a 4000 square foot space on the fourth floor of Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library, Kendall provides teens with a place where their ideas and opinions are listened to, their talents displayed, and friendly staff help them.

Kendall never intended to become a young adult librarian, but when he was offered the job for one of the branches, he thought it could be fun. He enjoyed the work so much that when the library was hiring for Teen Central, Kendall knew it was what he wanted.

Teen Central’s environment is so ideal that the Project for Public Spaces featured it in ‘Teens as Community Builders,’ describing it as a lively place where there’s always something going on, ‘with technology, food, videos, books, comics, magazines–a multi-tasking environment that’s in tune with the way teens work.’ For those with homework or research, enclosed study rooms and librarians are also available.

As advisor to the Library Teen Council, Kendall asks young adults for their ideas and opinions. Better yet, he acts on them. Kendall’s colleague Elaine Meyers says that when destructive behavior became a problem, he ‘worked with teens and the staff of the Phoenix educational cable station to create a three-minute video that airs before every feature film at Teen Central–an effective peer reminder that safety and respect are part of Teen Central’s culture.’

Even more important, says Kendall, ‘was how proud the teens were when the commercial was unveiled at our end-of-the-summer party.’ Kendall gives teens opportunities to have their talent and hard work recognized. Students display art in the gallery and publish creative writing in the e-zine Create!

Kendall frequently speaks about creating a welcoming teen environment. Start with friendly staff who actually like young adults, he says, and then let teens help plan all your activities, the reading program, the collection, and the space itself. ‘Not only will your services for them be better, but they’ll see that the library is committed to their needs. It’s an empowering experience for them.’




Current Position: Librarian II, Teen Central, Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix Public Library
Education: MLS, University of Arizona, 2000
Who Knew? A page who became a librarian, Kendall writes novels and screenplays in his spare time