A few weeks ago I ran a column about how quiet a library should or should not be. It produced several comments so I thought a natural follow up would be the title of a workshop session I attended in September, "The Library as the Third Place."
The concept of the third place is not new. It was originated by Ray Oldenberg in his 1989 book titled The Great Good Place in which he argued that third places are important for a civil society.
So what is a third place? It is somewhere outside of the home or workplace in the community where a person feels comfortable and regularly meets with friends, neighbors or other people who just show up. Hallmarks of a true third place include being free or inexpensive, highly accessible and welcoming. Food and drink while not essential can also be important.
Obviously Cherokee has many third places. All you have to do is go to a local restaurant and see the coffee groups. The Wellness Center, bowling alley and golf course are other examples. And so is the Cherokee Public Library!
In the olden dates (insert your own date here) that would not have been true. People were not encouraged to convene or heaven forbid talk to each other in a public library setting. But things have changed and libraries are definitely third places in their communities. We see it every day.
Whether it is the book group meeting, a military recruiter talking to a prospect or just two friends sitting in the atrium visiting because they happened to run into each other, our library is a very social place. People talk to each other as they read newspapers, use computers or bring kids to activities. The only time we interfere is when we think someone is disturbing other patrons.
It can be fun to watch the interaction that happens at the library but since I am writing this on an early dismissal school day I have to add a disclaimer. Although it's important that kids have a third place too, they need to learn to use it with respect. Running, shoving, swiping cell phones and pushing past people are not acceptable actions.
However, most of the time things go smoothly and the staff enjoys the social aspects of the library. It's a good place to work, a good place to see people and a good third place for all of us.
The library will close early at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23. It will be closed Thursday, Nov. 24.