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David Lee King

Rethinking the 3rd Place



I had a conversation with my supervisor (Rob Banks, Deputy Director of Operations at the library) a couple days ago, and thought it was worth sharing with y’all.

We were talking about our impending website redesign (yes, we’re at it again). I had sent him a rough draft of my redesign plan, and we were talking through it. He had been reading my book on digital experiences, and that had fired off some really cool thoughts about the concept of 3rd place for him… here’s what he said that made us start thinking:

“It’s not 3rd place – it’s The Place:”

  • Typically, Rob has maybe 6 windows open on his computer while at work – email,   a couple of work documents he’s working on, TweetDeck (ok – does YOUR deputy director have TweetDeck open constantly? Just sayin), and a couple of websites – usually including Facebook.
  • He’s doing several things at the same time … but Facebook is always on, and he’s always connected to his Facebook friends.
  • When he’s not at work, Rob has a Blackberry with a Facebook app – so Facebook is always on there, too. He can connect to Facebook whenever he wants to, no matter where he is.
  • Rob can still be in his physical “3rd place” and (important point) STILL BE CONNECTED to Facebook and his friends.
  • And that’s the idea that needs to be translated over to our library’s digital branch.

Our library websites/digital branches will probably never be a real 3rd place to people – and that’s ok. Instead of working towards that, let’s work harder to make this now-old phrase, “be where the patrons are,” a bit more seamless.

good bookRob can be in his 3rd place – but he is also constantly connected to friends/colleagues/family in Facebook at the same time. Facebook, in a way, has transcended the 3rd place to be “The Place.” It’s always on, always available to him, when he wants to be there.

Our library websites/digital branches can be like this, too! So… still developing, but this is definitely going in the redesign plan.

Thoughts? How are you “always there, always on” when patrons want to reach you?

Photo by javaturtle

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ellie Bushhousen

    The concept of “always there, always on” is a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s great to be in contact with patrons or friends when needed. I think it’s also great to have down time to assimilate the neverending influx of information and stimuli. In other words, I like to disconnect from the world to organize my thoughts. It helps me assist people in a more coherent fashion. I can be Twitter-brief and still relevant.

    There are more and more studies being conducted about the pros and cons of our “constantly on” world. I’ve had discussion with colleagues about the current crop of college undergraduates and their non-stop plugged-in life. This is the wired generation and, as such, their relationship with the world is entirely different than their predecessors. Yet, how thoughtful and in-depth are their cognitive processes? I agree that libraries must have a virtual identity because that’s where the action is. I’m leery, however, of being constantly on for anyone and everyone. Technology is fun and I’m a big gearhead at heart. But hitting the Off button is fun, too!

  • Ellie Bushhousen

    The concept of “always there, always on” is a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s great to be in contact with patrons or friends when needed. I think it’s also great to have down time to assimilate the neverending influx of information and stimuli. In other words, I like to disconnect from the world to organize my thoughts. It helps me assist people in a more coherent fashion. I can be Twitter-brief and still relevant.

    There are more and more studies being conducted about the pros and cons of our “constantly on” world. I’ve had discussion with colleagues about the current crop of college undergraduates and their non-stop plugged-in life. This is the wired generation and, as such, their relationship with the world is entirely different than their predecessors. Yet, how thoughtful and in-depth are their cognitive processes? I agree that libraries must have a virtual identity because that’s where the action is. I’m leery, however, of being constantly on for anyone and everyone. Technology is fun and I’m a big gearhead at heart. But hitting the Off button is fun, too!

  • http://technolustandloathing.wordpress.com Jacquelyn Erdman

    I wrote a short observation paper about reference librarians in secondlife and this idea of “always on” and always available came up. Since in second life you can friend people and chat with them no matter where they are visiting online, it can be a challenge for librarians. Do they have to create a totally different avatar in order to enjoy second life when not wearing the library hat? If they don’t and they receive a question do they stop what they are doing for themselves and help the patron? Do they send them a note saying they are “off duty?” Will that offend the patron? Will they understand? Perhaps having a way to be logged on but not appear to be logged on can help. That way if you want to monitor things you can, and jump in if you see something that needs attention. This would be useful if your patrons tend to visit you online after office hours and if you can’t or do not want to adjust your office hours to the patrons.

    On the other side I sometimes think about how tourists sit behind their camera’s and camcorders and never unplug long enough to actually absorb things for themselves. People need to understand it is ok to unplug. Even super hero’s need to unplug. The trick is not feeling guilty about it. (Yes, random aside there).

  • http://technolustandloathing.wordpress.com/ Jacquelyn Erdman

    I wrote a short observation paper about reference librarians in secondlife and this idea of “always on” and always available came up. Since in second life you can friend people and chat with them no matter where they are visiting online, it can be a challenge for librarians. Do they have to create a totally different avatar in order to enjoy second life when not wearing the library hat? If they don’t and they receive a question do they stop what they are doing for themselves and help the patron? Do they send them a note saying they are “off duty?” Will that offend the patron? Will they understand? Perhaps having a way to be logged on but not appear to be logged on can help. That way if you want to monitor things you can, and jump in if you see something that needs attention. This would be useful if your patrons tend to visit you online after office hours and if you can’t or do not want to adjust your office hours to the patrons.

    On the other side I sometimes think about how tourists sit behind their camera’s and camcorders and never unplug long enough to actually absorb things for themselves. People need to understand it is ok to unplug. Even super hero’s need to unplug. The trick is not feeling guilty about it. (Yes, random aside there).

  • Rob Banks

    Thought provoking comments. Each of us will respond to things differently, and that is a good thing. There are times when I may have my phone with me, but I don’t check it for several hours because I’m engaged with something else. I think we have to choose what level/frequency of connection works best for each of us and then as Jacquelyn said, “Not feel guilty about it.”

    It could just be me, but I’m frequently stopped at the store or someplace to “talk about the library.” It even happened in my voice lesson this week! Most of the time, it is to tell me a good story, occasionally to comment/complain and sometimes I’m asked to do them a “library favor” like return a book for them!! If it is something that I can do right then, I just do it. People love that feeling of being special and if listening to them makes them feel good about the library; why not? Occasionally, it is something that I have to get back to them about – incredible as it may seem, I don’t know everything off the top of my head! Again, this usually isn’t a big deal and I get back to them. In a way, they are “connected” to the library through me at that point. This kind of interaction just doesn’t bother me, so I’m happy to do it. I guess that is why being connected most of the time doesn’t bother me either. I’m just used to it and sort of wired that way. People have stopped me in the grocery store, while I’m in my yard mowing clothes!, and asked questions as if I worked there. I guess I have that “ask me” look. That’s not to say everyone else should be, but it works for me. Does every member of our staff need to be connected to the public 24/7? Not at all! In fact it would cause a lot of wage and labor law problems if they were. However, I do think there are aspects of the library that can be “open” for business 24/7 and connected to people all the time and I don’t think it needs to be only the passives stuff like blogs and the catalog. What does all of that mean for us? I’m not sure. That’s why we float ideas like this. It gives us a chance to talk outloud about an idea and think through implications before we begin to try them.

    I really like the “tourist/camera” comment by Jacquelyn. That is so often true. How do we balance all of that for the public and for ourselves and still be there for them when they needs us? I think this can be an exciting challenge for our digital presence. In a medium that by its very nature is plugged in, how do we provide a non-plugged in type experience?

  • Rob Banks

    Thought provoking comments. Each of us will respond to things differently, and that is a good thing. There are times when I may have my phone with me, but I don’t check it for several hours because I’m engaged with something else. I think we have to choose what level/frequency of connection works best for each of us and then as Jacquelyn said, “Not feel guilty about it.”

    It could just be me, but I’m frequently stopped at the store or someplace to “talk about the library.” It even happened in my voice lesson this week! Most of the time, it is to tell me a good story, occasionally to comment/complain and sometimes I’m asked to do them a “library favor” like return a book for them!! If it is something that I can do right then, I just do it. People love that feeling of being special and if listening to them makes them feel good about the library; why not? Occasionally, it is something that I have to get back to them about – incredible as it may seem, I don’t know everything off the top of my head! Again, this usually isn’t a big deal and I get back to them. In a way, they are “connected” to the library through me at that point. This kind of interaction just doesn’t bother me, so I’m happy to do it. I guess that is why being connected most of the time doesn’t bother me either. I’m just used to it and sort of wired that way. People have stopped me in the grocery store, while I’m in my yard mowing clothes!, and asked questions as if I worked there. I guess I have that “ask me” look. That’s not to say everyone else should be, but it works for me. Does every member of our staff need to be connected to the public 24/7? Not at all! In fact it would cause a lot of wage and labor law problems if they were. However, I do think there are aspects of the library that can be “open” for business 24/7 and connected to people all the time and I don’t think it needs to be only the passives stuff like blogs and the catalog. What does all of that mean for us? I’m not sure. That’s why we float ideas like this. It gives us a chance to talk outloud about an idea and think through implications before we begin to try them.

    I really like the “tourist/camera” comment by Jacquelyn. That is so often true. How do we balance all of that for the public and for ourselves and still be there for them when they needs us? I think this can be an exciting challenge for our digital presence. In a medium that by its very nature is plugged in, how do we provide a non-plugged in type experience?

  • Marlene

    My comment is not as a professional librarian.

    As a someone whose learning style includes a strog visual component I must say I love coffeecup heart image!

    Just seeing it prompts me to read with an open heart and mind what comes next.

    Visual communication is much more than direct corollary to meaning

    for me it’s learning prep, setting an environment for meaningful intellectual exchange

    Maybe you just liked the image – I just liked the feeling and now committ to actually reading the post.

    Beyond enjoying the image I ordered your book and am wondering how I missed it’s launch last year?

    mgf

  • Marlene

    My comment is not as a professional librarian.

    As a someone whose learning style includes a strog visual component I must say I love coffeecup heart image!

    Just seeing it prompts me to read with an open heart and mind what comes next.

    Visual communication is much more than direct corollary to meaning

    for me it’s learning prep, setting an environment for meaningful intellectual exchange

    Maybe you just liked the image – I just liked the feeling and now committ to actually reading the post.

    Beyond enjoying the image I ordered your book and am wondering how I missed it’s launch last year?

    mgf

  • David Lee King

    Marlene – very interesting thought – thanks for sharing! I always try to tie an image to my blog post. The heart/coffee image is supposed to represent that concept of third place, since some consider a cafe or coffee shop to be their 2nd or 3rd places they spend the most time. And the heart in the pic was just icing on the cake, so to speak!

    Hope you like the book – thanks for buying!

  • David Lee King

    Marlene – very interesting thought – thanks for sharing! I always try to tie an image to my blog post. The heart/coffee image is supposed to represent that concept of third place, since some consider a cafe or coffee shop to be their 2nd or 3rd places they spend the most time. And the heart in the pic was just icing on the cake, so to speak!

    Hope you like the book – thanks for buying!

  • http://toddchandler.blogspot.com/ Todd Chandler

    Love the customer-centric approach to “be where the patrons are.” As a library (or any smaller organization), it would be very difficult to have the resources to create a third place that could compete with the facebooks of the world. I think your shift in focus to not be a new destination, but rather part of the conversation and engagement at existing destinations is very wise.

  • http://toddchandler.blogspot.com/ Todd Chandler

    Love the customer-centric approach to “be where the patrons are.” As a library (or any smaller organization), it would be very difficult to have the resources to create a third place that could compete with the facebooks of the world. I think your shift in focus to not be a new destination, but rather part of the conversation and engagement at existing destinations is very wise.

  • David Lee King

    Thanks, Todd! Yep – I think it’s pretty important to be “there…” – wherever “there” is.

  • David Lee King

    Thanks, Todd! Yep – I think it’s pretty important to be “there…” – wherever “there” is.

  • http://www.imls.gov/ Kevin Cherry

    As a “non-facebooker” who enjoyed the National Book Festival in Washington, DC this weekend in the company of a friend who is an i-Phone Facebook fanatic (and who happens to be one of Rob Bank’s facebook friends while I am only his face-to-face friend), I can attest that there was an extended conversation going on across the continent (with Rob being one of the most connected of commentators) and that this conversation actually deepened my on-site experience. I have refrained from taking the leap into this sort of “mixed” online/onsite acivity in the past because I was afraid it might detract from the “real” experience (meaning for me, the “onsite.”) As a result, I have kept my online and onsite lives fairly separate. This weekend demonstrated the possibilities. I know, all of you are tsk, tsking me right now. (“Can you believe he is only just NOW reaching this point?”) I guess my old fuddy-duddyness is slowly dissipating.

  • http://www.imls.gov Kevin Cherry

    As a “non-facebooker” who enjoyed the National Book Festival in Washington, DC this weekend in the company of a friend who is an i-Phone Facebook fanatic (and who happens to be one of Rob Bank’s facebook friends while I am only his face-to-face friend), I can attest that there was an extended conversation going on across the continent (with Rob being one of the most connected of commentators) and that this conversation actually deepened my on-site experience. I have refrained from taking the leap into this sort of “mixed” online/onsite acivity in the past because I was afraid it might detract from the “real” experience (meaning for me, the “onsite.”) As a result, I have kept my online and onsite lives fairly separate. This weekend demonstrated the possibilities. I know, all of you are tsk, tsking me right now. (“Can you believe he is only just NOW reaching this point?”) I guess my old fuddy-duddyness is slowly dissipating.

  • David Lee King

    Kevin – thanks for sharing! No “tsk tsk’s” here. Ya gotta start somewhere, and the best way to start is to have a reason first. Sounds like you’re starting to see a reason… cool!

  • David Lee King

    Kevin – thanks for sharing! No “tsk tsk’s” here. Ya gotta start somewhere, and the best way to start is to have a reason first. Sounds like you’re starting to see a reason… cool!

  • Rob Banks

    Hi Kevin. Great to hear from you. By the way, it was fun to see the picture of you and Linda at the SC booth. Wish I could have been there. I think you make some interesting points that actually mirror my experiences fairly closely. The online stuff was OK but it just didn’t click for me until I figured out that it provided me a way to keep in closer contact with my face-to-face friends when we weren’t together. Since I typically see my group of friends about twice a year at conference, there were long stretches of time that I basically lost touch with them. Now with the online stuff, we share pictures, send messages, sometimes profound but generally not. I feel closer to them. Those connections allowed me to get some experience of the NBF without being there. I also watched broadcasts on BookTV. All of which helped. I could have experienced it in person, which would have been best. Schedules and finances didn’t allow that. By experiencing it through the eyes of friends I had a different level of interaction that gave me a sense of connectedness that wouldn’t have occured otherwise. In my opinion, that happened because I had already formed relationships with the friends. They were trusted sources and known quantities so that I could easier imagine the context for comments and pictures. This allowed me a more personal view than I would have recieved from typical broadcasts. Even the tweets of people I didn’t know figured into the patchwork of experience and provided me enhanced participation. To fold this back into the original discussion I had with David; that is the type of experience I would like to be able to provide to our customers. That enhanced/personal relationship that allows them to be part of their library, whether in person or online. One difficulty is that everything doesn’t work for everybody. Not all of our customers will like or be comfortable with this interaction. We have to keep exploring and find ways that work for each person. So Kevin, you will always be a in-person friend. Should you decide that online works for you that is great, but if not that is also great. With friends it is the friendship that counts, not what tools are used to maintain it; with customers it is the same, it is the relationship that is important not how we connect.

  • Rob Banks

    Hi Kevin. Great to hear from you. By the way, it was fun to see the picture of you and Linda at the SC booth. Wish I could have been there. I think you make some interesting points that actually mirror my experiences fairly closely. The online stuff was OK but it just didn’t click for me until I figured out that it provided me a way to keep in closer contact with my face-to-face friends when we weren’t together. Since I typically see my group of friends about twice a year at conference, there were long stretches of time that I basically lost touch with them. Now with the online stuff, we share pictures, send messages, sometimes profound but generally not. I feel closer to them. Those connections allowed me to get some experience of the NBF without being there. I also watched broadcasts on BookTV. All of which helped. I could have experienced it in person, which would have been best. Schedules and finances didn’t allow that. By experiencing it through the eyes of friends I had a different level of interaction that gave me a sense of connectedness that wouldn’t have occured otherwise. In my opinion, that happened because I had already formed relationships with the friends. They were trusted sources and known quantities so that I could easier imagine the context for comments and pictures. This allowed me a more personal view than I would have recieved from typical broadcasts. Even the tweets of people I didn’t know figured into the patchwork of experience and provided me enhanced participation. To fold this back into the original discussion I had with David; that is the type of experience I would like to be able to provide to our customers. That enhanced/personal relationship that allows them to be part of their library, whether in person or online. One difficulty is that everything doesn’t work for everybody. Not all of our customers will like or be comfortable with this interaction. We have to keep exploring and find ways that work for each person. So Kevin, you will always be a in-person friend. Should you decide that online works for you that is great, but if not that is also great. With friends it is the friendship that counts, not what tools are used to maintain it; with customers it is the same, it is the relationship that is important not how we connect.