Monday, March 23, 2009

The Third Place

"Theory into practice."

Rolf Erickson on Third Place Libraries

The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. - Wikipedia

Some people really have the view from the mountain top. Doug Johnson is one of those people. His Blue Skunk blog is an ongoing source of professional development for me, as well as inspiration. His recent post, School Libraries as a "Third Place" , takes a variety of scholarly research on healthy social networks, and applies this body of work to school libraries.

My less-scholarly summary is that our students work and live at home, they work in classrooms and in their extra-curricular activities, and they also need a "third place" where they can connect with their disparate obligations and responsibilities. Whether it is checking email, downloading work from a teacher website, touching base with Facebook, doing homework, or relaxing with friends over a chess or Scrabble board, they need a third place.

Does this undermine the mission of the CCHS Library? Not in my opinion. The work of high school students looks very different from the work of college students, or their teachers. They have a higher tolerance for noise, and many are more productive with some noise than they are with silence. They work in relaxed, collaborative groups, mixing academics with casual chat. They visibly unwind, their shoulders and faces relaxing. We are seeing increased use of databases and books. We know this, because our usage statistics are up across the board. We are full to capacity almost every block, every day. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Hmmm.... students using the library - more. Isn't that what it's all about?

photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Creative Commons by ocean.flynn

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