Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Future of the Stacks : : John Palfrey |:| Library as Third Place

The Future of the Stacks
How closing libraries means losing more than just good memories
Medium: 5.05.2015 by John Palfrey

When asked what they like best about libraries, people often recall browsing in dimly lit stacks for a book. The browsing experience is one of the most magical childhood memories for many people. They have positive associations with the experience of tracking down a book by call number, wending their way through the aisles, and running their finger along the spines of books in musty library stacks.

The joy of unexpected discovery has enormous appeal to people of all ages and all walks of life. The library browsing experience is strongly associated with the concept of serendipity.

There is something powerful about the idea that patrons will find on the shelves books that they didn’t expect to find. To date, this experience has come about thanks to the physical proximity of other books to the book they are initially seeking. For some people, it is impossible to come out of the stacks without armfuls of books, even if they went into the stacks seeking just one. This serendipity has broader social implications too. New ideas and new connections between fields can be created as a result of these unexpected findings. This serendipity, this sense of discovery, relies on a long and complex chain of activities, many of them carried out by librarians.

There is reason to fear that this type of positive experience will be lost if library stacks, and the people who staff them, disappear. If libraries shed their physical collections and materials are rendered to patrons through electronic delivery only, the experience of serendipity could be lost forever. The same fear goes for the decline of the physical, printed newspaper.

When a reader searches only for a narrow topic and ends up with a single story, she may miss the surrounding stories that offer a broader snapshot of what’s happening in the world. (Even the prospect of moving previously inaccessible stacks can lead to public outcry, as occurred with the New York Public Library in 2012.)

If libraries were to disappear, cities and towns would lose essential “third places” that are open to the public. In a 2013 survey, 90 percent of Americans age sixteen and older said that the closing of their local public library would have a negative impact on their community. There are many sound reasons for this concern.

Outside of home and work, third places in many communities are shifting away from library spaces and toward commercial spaces, whether Starbucks in the physical world or Facebook in the virtual world.  READ MORE !

The Great
Good Place
The Library as Third Place
Library Journal: 2.17.2014 by Annoyed Librarian

Inspired by this article in the Chicago Tribune hailing libraries as “havens on earth,” I wanted to write about libraries as Third Places.

A Third Place is somewhere other than home or work, the first two places. From the Wikipedia article summing up Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, we find the following characteristic of third places:
Free or inexpensive
Food and drink, while not essential, are important
Highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance)
Involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there
Welcoming and comfortable
Both new friends and old should be found there

Depending on the community, lots of public libraries could count as third places, especially those with cafes and open spaces outside the normally quiet stacks areas. People generally don’t sit around the reference section merrily conversing, but there’s often space for that sort of thing.

This is even perhaps what a lot of public librarians want libraries to become, even if they don’t put it in those terms. It might make a lot more sense of some of the activities now happening in libraries if the official goal was to make the public library into a Third Place.  READ MORE [comments] !

No comments: