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

1000 True Fans – Can We Have 1000 True Patrons?

I just read 1000 True Fans from Kevin Kelly’s blog – great article! I suggest you go read it. And then come back! Because… I’m wondering… can that model work in a library/non-profit/website setting?

Here’s the gist of the idea presented in the article: for artists or creatives to make a living, they don’t really need a blockbuster hit and billions of sales – instead, they need 1000 true fans. Here’s how Kevin describes a True Fan: “A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”

And if those fans end up spending around $100 or so per year (buying your stuff), then you will earn a good living. Pretty cool idea – it’s basically the long tail working itself out from the artist’s viewpoint.

When I read the article, I couldn’t help but think – how does this work in a library setting? What if we had 1000 True Fans? What would that look like? Especially with the impending release of my library’s digital branch (March 31!) – what would 1000 true fans of our digital branch look like? 1000 people engaged in our blogs, leaving substantive comments, maybe joining an online book club, watching our YouTube videos… those 1000 true fans would keep us extremely busy!

And yet, that’s be just a small sampling of our user base, wouldn’t it? Sorta like… say… the group of people that visit our physical branch regularly! Our “regulars.” Our regulars really make up a minority of our total library visiting population – but we focus alot of time on those people – because they’re the ones using our services.

Sure, I want to reach much further than just 1000 people… but having 1000 True Fans of my library’s Digital Branch? That would keep us extremely busy.


Part of all Three Places

Have you familiar with the concept of Third Place? As far as I can tell, the concept came from the book, The Great Good Place, written by Ray Oldenburg. His concept is this: most people have about three places in their life that in some way define them – usually home, work/school, and one other place (ie., the Third Place). Third Place can be many things, including church,
a bar or coffee shop, etc.  

A Third Place can even be digital – here’s a cool article discussing MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) as a third place, and even mentions a paper (currently under review) written by Constance Steinkuehler called “The New Third Space: Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming in American Youth Culture.” Wow.

Ok, so there’s a very brief Third Place background. Obviously, the physical library space can act as a Third Place for patrons – and that’s all well and good. But did you know that libraries can also infiltrate other Third Places, and possibly even people’s First and Second Places? Think about it – home and work/school. If you tweak your thinking about libraries, websites, and virtual services just a little, you can then start thinking about how a library can offer library services in people’s homes, at their workplaces, and at their schools – in essence, being available in people’s First and Second Places.

One way to get in those places, short of a physical Outreach Services type of thing where we physically take books to people, is to focus on our digital services. What digital services do you have now? Do you offer services like virtual reference, IM reference, phone reference, useful and usable web content, RSS feeds, etc? All those digital services get our digital foot in the digital doors of First and Second Places.

Just a braindump/thought process of going where your patrons already are – at their first, second and third places… libraries can be there, too!

Library 2.0