Guests of all ages enjoyed appetizers, deserts and strawberry lemonade at Lodi Public Library as they celebrated the grand opening of a new teen center on Tuesday evening.

Designed by Sam Harper of WNB Architects, TEENS@201 features two rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass walls as well as a courtyard, all named after some of the donors who helped fund the construction of the Lodi Public Library Foundation’s latest project.

Children draw on interactive whiteboards mounted to the walls of the Michael David Family Foundation Lounge, which also features a variety of chairs and table surfaces.

A door from the lounge leads outside to the Dr. Ram and Radhika Courtyard, where concrete walls hold inset benches covered by mesh awnings to provide shade.

The Warren and Honor Wass Studio houses a wall of bookshelves with built-in benches, along with tables and stools in the center. Chairs surround circular tables behind the sliding glass doors of two study rooms, named for Pacific Gas & Electric and Lodi Academy Schools, respectively.

Although teenagers will have priority, the study rooms might also be used by local businesses for job interviews due to their privacy, according to Kelly Nimitz, a volunteer LPLF board member.

“We’re anxious for more people to use the library because libraries are changing. They’re not just repositories for books anymore. What I like about (TEENS@201) is that it opens up the whole library, and that’s what we want. We want it to be open to the whole community,” Nimitz said.

After Nimitz concluded the first round of tours, Caitlin Casey, president of the library’s board of trustees, who thanked the guests for attending before explaining that the project was proposed approximately two years ago, when the library’s homework help area was still under construction.

“Our vision is to serve one of the biggest groups of library users, which is teens. It’s only fitting that they have a space created intentionally for them to use to learn, grow, and to be the best people they can be,” Casey said.

Casey then introduced state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani of California’s 5th District. The daughter of a single mother, Galgiani recalled spending much of her time after school at Stockton Public Library as a child, where she would finish her homework before walking next door to the YMCA.

“To have a center like this is magnificent for teens. That they know this space is theirs to share, to meet with other people and to be around adults who can guide them is an incredible use of the talents of everyone involved,” Galgiani said.

After Galgiani presented Casey with a certificate commemorating the center’s grand opening, she passed the microphone to Lodi’s own Mayor Alan Nakanishi. Nakanishi reflected on his own connection to the library, and congratulated the collaboration between the public library and private donors.

“I never dreamed we’d have an evening like this. As Mayor of Lodi, I’m here on behalf of the City of Lodi to thank you all. I’ve lived in this city for a very long time. When I first moved here, one of the first places I’d visit was right here. Things like this would not be possible without the cooperation of people in both the private and public sectors,” Nakanishi said.

Steve Schwabauer, city manager for Lodi, followed Nakanishi, highlighting some of the center’s features.

“The foundation of the American Dream is a three-legged stool: The rights and freedoms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, public education and public libraries. It is our dream to provide the library with the most access to technology as we can. Teens can make and broadcast video and audio recordings, and we have five new laptops dedicated specifically to them. We’re really appreciative of the community that came together to make this happen,” Schwabauer said.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar traveled from Stockton to attend TEENS@201’s grand opening. Speaking from her experience prosecuting juvenile offenders, Verber Salazar explained that her office is always looking for ways to keep youths in school, and expressed her hope that the teen center will help accomplish that goal.

“For some of our kids, this is the safest place to be. Maybe home isn’t safe, maybe the areas they live in aren’t safe, but they know that this place is always safe,” Verber Salazar said.

Vickie Delph, a deputy public defender for San Joaquin County, followed Verber Salazar with an impromptu speech of her own, saying that she, too, is constantly searching for community resources that her young clients can access to keep them out of trouble.

“This space is what they need, a quiet space they can count on, because a lot of teens don’t want to be in trouble,” Delph said.

In addition to his duties with the Lodi Police Department, Lt. Sierra Brucia also serves as president of the Lodi Public Library Foundation. Brucia recognized the Friends of the Public Library as well as donors such as Lodi Academy Schools, who contributed funds raised from a fun run in 2017.

“We’re very proud to be a part of this almost $1 million project. I’d like to take a moment to recognize Karen Kanas, director of community outreach for Lodi Academy. We were very fortunate to be the recipient of their 2017 fun run. They raised over $12,000, and they were generous enough to donate that money to us,” Brucia said.

Kanas then delivered a few words, acknowledging the contributions from the many Lodi teenagers who helped the project, not just those from Lodi Academy.

“Our school has been in existence since 1908, and the city of Lodi has been in existence since 1906. We are so proud to be a part of this. This would not have been possible without help from all over the city, not just our school. It was so great to see people across many generations come together to build something for the younger generation,” Kanas said.

Kanas introduced Madison Lozano, a member of the TEENS@201 Teen Committee who gave her own address before cutting the ceremonial ribbon.

“Being a part of TEENS@201 was a marvelous opportunity. I wanted us to have a space where we can feel safe and just be teens. I, myself, am excited to use the recording studio, where I can let out my inner Beyonce,” Lozano said.

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