Library as a Third Place


This article provides a perspective on the importance of the library nowadays, more precisely it’s role and responsibilities. Aims to define the concept of third place framework, emphasizing the importance of it. It also gives a perspective in which library should currently be seen as a third-place, and moreover, it provides solutions and new theories/rules about how this physical space should be handled and updated. Fundamentally, some essential points regarding third place that should be taken into consideration as many times as possible. How the library should have its spaces and its people as a constant and keeping them updated at the same time.

In the scope of Library Processes’ study, this project focus on libraries, on explaining concepts and also in developing new perceptions and ideas. It will precisely focus on how people may see libraries as their own third place. What kind of rules are seen as necessary and mandatory to conduct libraries? Or is it preferred not to have rules at all? Also, how can a library have a loose structure? How is or should be the atmosphere in this realm? What makes it pleasant and what doesn’t? Those are seemingly simple yet relevant questions, that library communities have been taken into consideration. In response to that, this article intends to provide some answers and new ideas.

The first topic provides a brief definition of the concept ‘’third place’’ (characteristics and environment) by itself, as well as it’s important role in peoples’ lives. As a second topic, it is explained why should the library be seen as a suitable third place for people and more especially for students. In other words, library is introduced as a third place. In the third topic, it is explained what are library communities performing in order to keep things updated and profitable.

As a fourth and last topic, a text in conclusion that refers libraries impact on personal lives, and how this third place becomes useful and beneficial in substantial proportions.

1. Third Place

Starting with a definition of the third place. According to Ray Oldenburg in “The great good place” (Oldenburg, 1989), a person needs three different and important places: home, work, and a third undefined place. In order to be mentally and even physically healthy those elements are supposed to be balanced in people’s lives. Home shall bring relax, comfort and a predicted environment while in work, a person must be motivated, productive and fulfilled. A third place, on other hands, is an escape place. A relief from stress and nonstopping life. It provides a loose and interactive structure. It constitutes a place where people actually feel equals, without any kind of hierarchy, a place that does not simply reduce people into customers. In addition, such a leveler place may develop relationships in a way that in other realms is not as likely possible to happen. This prevails as a result of staying in a place where conventional status counts for nothing.

As mentioned in the abstract, and now in order to develop the concept, it is crucial to describe how third places must have specific and constant people there. In other words, a place that offers such a positive environment and service that one individual can go alone and meet acquaintances, at any time of the day, feel comfortable and happy with it. Besides the interior conditions and environment, pointing to the accessibility to third places is important as well: time and location are also setting factors. To be able to meet people at any time of the day, the place needs easy access, with a surrounding pleasant neighborhood, and requires also to be open during long hours (during the day and the night).

In sum, a third place provides a low-stress environment, a leveled playground field, a collective and reciprocal character and last but not least, a loose and detached structure.

All those settled peculiarities obviously go along with the characteristics of a library. Aspect that will be analyzed at the following point.

2. Library as a Third Place — Why?

Libraries as known today has several roles and responsibilities regarding society, more precisely regarding students. The concern in turning libraries as a pleasant place and the third place for students is becoming more and more explored within library communities. It is clear that the physical library remains active and robust. However, its places and rules constantly to be improved and updated in order to accomplish social expectations, which are always changing nowadays. The set of characteristics used to define the concept of third place are as well suitable for library’s one. Library provides low-stress status, anti-hierarchical situation, interactive and sociable situations (in low levels, but quite possible), also, it has a structure where every different kind of person may fit and feel comfortable. Besides that, it is relevant to emphasize that many students have very different lives and different methods to study; some have to part-time jobs till late hours in the day, some study all in the morning and some study all day. Therefore, it is known that library communities are establishing more flexible schedule extending the working hours per day, in order to better fit in students’ lives.

Talking about personal experience, the library is the perfect place to study. As Ray Oldenburg says in The Great Good Place (1989) there is the “feeling of being ‘apart together’”. Everyone is there as an individual, everyone is studying, every person inside the library is in the ‘same situation’ so, concentrating and enjoying the study becomes easier and effortless. Besides that, the low-profile character that has the library makes possible the creation of a little environment inside the mind, that also helps in concentration.

Definitely, personal experience is not a general idea. So, the low-profile character may sometimes be not quite appellative to other people, it may even be boring, closed, and not so good looking. Therefore, libraries’ role in creating a pleasant place, become nowadays even more factual and meticulous. That theme will be approached in the following topic.

3. Libraries’ Role

It is mandatory having complex and organized staff as well as procedures behind the public surface and let it show the other way around: demonstrate simple structure and transparent working methods. How to maintain a loose structure, an interactive and lower stress environment it is the main challenge for libraries. How to keep functional rules operative and having a loose structure at the same time. More precisely, how to allow study groups and maintain the typical silence in the library at the same time? It seems difficult, yet a plausible and worth pursuing defiance.

In those cases, personally speaking, to create and to organize library spaces is fundamental. That means, for instance, to conceive different rooms for different purposes. Rooms where study groups are allowed to talk and discuss their matters without bothering other people. Furthermore, to assemble a broad and glazed room where people can manage being concentrated and not feeling alone at the same time; the glassful surface and the natural light are elements that help mitigate the enclosure feeling that students have most of the time in classes and work, and that may also help to clean their minds, improve their mood and their quality of study. On another hand, in broad rooms, people circulating noise is a constant, and that may be a disturbing factor for some. In order to fix that, also small rooms should be created to reduce the exits and entrances flow and provide quieter and super silent concentration rooms.

It is known that libraries are actually making policy rules more flexible. Institutions are allowing students to eat and drink almost anywhere inside (with the hot food exception), they are extending the working hours and even more during the final exams. Those are some examples of the construction of a good third place for students and also for the community in general. The main purpose is to spread those ‘loose concepts’ everywhere in order to massify and standardize the library as a third place.

4. Conclusion

In summary, in spite of all the competition, libraries are still a massive and secure place to host students although they need to bring their concept a little bit more up to date: the inner space and environment must be revaluated and additional importance must be given to students needs and preferences instead of fixing rules. Space and environment are decisive factors in making people, specially students, more comfortable. Also, relaxed and low stressed environments are seen as key aspects. In conclusion, there is an evolving process in constructing library as the third place, and spreading it is the most important step. But still, library remains the center of student’s community.


Oldenburg, R. (1989). The great good place. St Paul, Minnesota. Paragon House

LANKES, R. David. The atlas of new librarianship. Cambridge: MIT Press, c2011. ISBN 978–0–262–01509–7.

Electronical References: