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BEST PLACE TO DITCH THE PARENTS

Teen Central

The 5,000-square-foot refuge sectioned off on the fourth floor of the Phoenix Public Library's main branch is revered by the community as a safe haven for teens, and loved by teens because someone has actually been able to create a safe setting that's not too dorky to attract the kids. Staffed by an average of five librarians specially trained to deal with teen issues, and stacked with resources to help teens cope with everything from peer pressure and pregnancy to that looming book report on The Odyssey, Teen Central has earned its reputation as a sanctuary for teens.

In fact, about the only place around TC where young people have to deal with the weirdness of the adult world is at the entrance, where older relatives sometimes hang out like the reverse version of underage kids outside the liquor store, bribing 14-year-olds to pick up that latest Sigur Rés CD from the section's 5,000-plus collection of new and recent releases -- the most current selection in town. It's no wonder the oldsters lurk jealously outside the door: Teen Central is like the dream library denied to all previous generations, outfitted with a cozy crash space surrounded by magazines and vending machines, nearly two dozen Internet-wired PCs blaring music videos and games, a wide-screen TV hosting twice-daily movie matinees, and even a small dance floor.

Best of all: In Teen Central, no one ever tells you to "shush."

 
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