In his book The Great Good Place, author Ray Oldenburg talks about the importance of having a space that is neither work or home, but a third place that serves as a location for the community to come together and gather. For many people and communities, that place is a public library.
I saw this first hand when I worked at a public library, and it is one of the things I miss most about working in that environment. Patrons would come in, bring recipes they were experimenting with for others to try; talk with one another about movies and tv shows they recommended; play mahjongg. When I started at my school and was asked what kind of library I wanted to build, I knew I wanted to work to try and create our own version of a third place. I envisioned a place that wasn’t a classroom or an office, that was open to families, faculty, students and staff, and provided both a space for quiet reading and collaboration.
Obviously, in some ways, the pandemic has delayed my plans and vision, though it has also allowed me more time to refine my vision and think of ways to generate community buy-in, especially for something that is in some ways counterintuitive to what one typically expects for a school environment.
The largest component I am struggling with right now, is how to make sure everyone has access, while also making it feel organic. Right now, I have class visits schedules for all of our classes (PreK3-8th grade), however, it doesn’t necessarily allow for more organic visits to the space.
Now that the end of our traditional school year (we are a year round program) is on the horizon, I feel like we can all take a deep breath and look ahead a little bit more. My hope is to create a committee of some sorts, to gather input from teachers and other members of our community, on how they think we can best bring this vision to life- as if it’s only my dream, it is not likely to come to fruition.
As our third place evolves, I will be sure to share updates. However, in the interim, I would love to hear any ideas or insights you may have for how to create community and gather buy in, particularly in such a unique environment. Please share any suggestions you have in the comments below and I will respond!