Why are we invisible?
Much emphasis is placed on public libraries’ role as a safe, welcoming and non-commercial “third space.” And as the impacts of densification increase in urban centres, personal space is at an all-time premium.
High-rise condos and city dwellings are overflowing containers of work, play, social activity, family chaos and quiet contemplation (if you can find it!). It is no surprise that libraries are popular destinations for people of all ages – a welcome escape from cramped or lonely quarters and an opportunity to connect with others.
I found it interesting to read a New York Times article about another popular gathering space, albeit a commercial one.
According to researchers, the role of the fast food restaurant as a ‘third space’ is growing more pronounced in large urban centres. The intergenerational mix of people, social atmosphere and the low cost of admission makes it particularly attractive for low-income seniors. There is mention of bookstores, public markets and fast-food restaurants filling this need for social connection, but I regret not a word about libraries.
Libraries are well established as social connectors and providers of high-quality public spaces. To go the next step, we need to connect these essential ingredients to social outcomes, and demonstrate how we support a sense of belonging for community members, regardless of their income.
We’re well positioned to develop drop-in programs of interest to specific demographics, or to increase marketing efforts of existing programs in partnership with others. There seems to be no shortage of people seeking an oasis of calm or a hub of social connection.
The challenge will be reaching these individuals at their point of need – wherever they may be.
Daphne Woods wrote previously about McDonald’s as the largest publisher of children’s books and their development of an e-library for kids: http://kenhaycock.com/billions-billions-served/