Creating the Third Place – Virtual Space

Well, the third component in creating the Third Place in your library is creating your virtual space.  Your virtual space is your world wide web presence – your identity on the internet.  It is how you are perceived and recognized, how others are able to access your information, and how your website presents your corporate image, if you will.

My biggest fault with Library websites is how busy the “front page” is.  Libraries tend to cram way too much information on the front page.  You should think of your front page as a stepping stone to the other aspects of your library.

While in the past, it’s true, you had really one shot to capture the attention of surfers, web designers put everything on the front page,  this is no longer the case.  Your front page should be comprised of links to other parts of the website, with a few informative areas, but not too much.

Navigation links should be very easy to understand and to navigate.  I recommend large navigation buttons for your older patrons, as well as a smaller navigation bar across the top.

Ok, now for your Young Adults.  I suggest including them in the design and implementation of their own page.  Include them and let them make their own choices, their own words, their ow look.  You should retain editorial rights – and nothing should make it to the website without prior approval of the librarian in charge.

What you’re doing is giving them ownership – again.  You are showing your trust and faith that they are responsible.  While this may not seem the case because you are retaining editorial rights – these should be enforced with statements like – “that’s a great idea – I wonder if there’s another way to present the information, though?”  Use their ideas, let them develop their page – the more ownership they have, the more likely they are to respect the power they are given.

Next Time:  STORYTIME!  I switch from Young Adults to Children’s Needs.



Creating the Third Place – Physical Space

Welcome back!  I’ve been a bit busy having a great time doing Storytime at the Cedarburg Public Library for 3-5 year olds on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Really hits home, reminding me why I chose this profession!  The kids are fantastic and the Caregivers are great.  Cedarburg is a lovely city with great folks!

The Third Place and Physical Space

Physical Space is the second aspect in creating the Third Place.  You already have the physical space in your library – in fact, unless you are fortunate to be building or renovating your existing space, your physical space is already designated.  Many of you, however, don’t have a Teen or YA Area – just for them!

This is because even though Margaret Edwards’ book The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts, published in 1974 told us about the need for teen programming, it is really only in the past 10 years or so that libraries have begun to really devote space and resources to teens.

I have visited a few libraries and attended a few presentations on Teen Spaces and Children’s Spaces.  There are as many ways to creatively use existing space as there are libraries and librarians!  You just have to decide where your dedicated space will be, set a budget for transforming it into your new space, and go for it!

Ok, it’s not that easy!  Planning is the most important aspect of converting a space.  You simply cannot overplan!  Having said that, let me go over the idea of the physical space, what is important to remember, and some examples of spaces converted at low cost.  For these examples, I’ll use teen spaces.

Let’s say you have a space designated for teen use.  You have a 10’X10′ room.  You already own the shelving units, books and computers – maybe a few desk units and chairs.

1.  Get your Teen Advisory Board (TAB) involved.  What do they want in their space?  What do they need? Right now write down everything they say – try to keep them a little grounded, but let their ideas strut around the room like free-range chickens!

2. Establish a budget.  It’s fine if it’s as low as $0.  Really, it is!  Of course, the more you have the nicer things you can buy, as you know.

3.  Compare the TAB’s wish list to the budget – now you will have to start making choices or inspiring your teens and friends group to raise money!  (At a recent WLA  session, there was a teen librarian whose teens raised almost $5000 by doing a haunted house at the library!)

4.  Funding.  See if the Friends group is willing to spend some money on the teens, make a presentation using well spoken teens to present their side of the case.  When you get a commitment of funds from the FG, get your teens to start thinking of ideas on how to raise money.

5. Sweat/Grade Equity.  Say What?  Say you want some groovy computer stations, but you don’t have thousands of dollars to shell out for a commercial station.  Why not find a FG member or TAB member who is skilled at woodworking and design the desks and create them for a fraction of the cost, possibly even for school credit from the shop teacher!

6.  Donations.  Time for you and your teens to work the street – find neighborhood businesses that might donate money, coupons, fabric, wood, metal working, neon – be sure they get recognition for their donations, and a receipt for their taxes!

7.  Be Creative!! Want some groovy shelves?  One library used old skateboards, removed the trucks, and mounted them on the wall.  Other found items for decorating could be old electric guitars, bicycles, board games – imagination is your friend!

8. Create a scale model, at least with the room and paper cutouts of the furniture, The Hedberg Library in Janesville, WI created a space by turning the shelves so it was a little more private, and simply adding some neon, etc.

9.  Put it all together!  By involving your TAB and any other teens you can, you have given them ownership of the space.  THe more involved they are, the ore likely they are to A.)  Get what they want in the space, not what you think they want and B.) They are more likely to self-police the area, helping to stop vandalism and theft.

Now take care of the space!  Welcome teens into it, but be sure to make sure they know the rules.  If you have to enforce a rule, be consistent, be firm and don’t be afraid!  Remember they are just kids – their brains are still forming synapses and growing – sometimes their wiring is a little screwy as the develop – remember what you were like?

Next time – the Virtual Space

Creating the “Third Place” @ Your Library

Let me digress for a moment.  The third place is a concept of providing a place to socialize in these times of human non-interaction.  The third place is not home or work/school.  It is a third place to relax, refresh, rejuvenate and socialize.

There are three elements to establishing the third place in your library – whether for teens or all other patrons, these are:

1.  Psychological

2. Physical

3.  Virtual

In today’s blog, I’ll cover the first element.  The psychological element means to be welcoming, to greet your stakeholders, connect with them, discover their needs, respond to those needs and thank them for coming.

Greet – You should make the effort to remember as many names as possible of your patrons and greet them by name – if you don’t know their names, you should still at least greet them warmly and sincerely into your library.  Learning names is easy, you look at their name when you check them out. and it is quite all right to ask a person their name when they approach you for information.

Connect –  Make it a point to learn something about as many patrons as you can! I happen to notice jewelry, having grown up around artists and having friends who make jewelry. I also try to remember the genres they read, t-shirts (how much fun are t-shirts?), hats.  Connecting is making small talk.  This helps you create rapport and a relationship, that may last for years.  Just like It’s a Wonderful Life, we sometimes never know how many lives we touch – make it a point to touch as many as you can as positively as you can!

Discover – Why are they in the library?  The discovery aspect is your reference interview.  Ask questions, discover what your patron needs or wants.  When asking reference questions it is my experience that you should re-state questions and clarify as much as possible.  This saves time in the long run, and creates a better customer service experience.

Respond – Aha!  You’ve found out what they need, now you respond by fulfilling that need.  Woot!  You rock, the patron is happy, and your job is satisfying!  You have also kept the Librarian Mystique alive (of course we know the answer – we are librarians!)

Thank – Please don’t forget this very important step!  Thank them for coming in and encourage them to return.  This helps strengthen the bond between the two of you, and results in improved circulation of materials.

Think of the third place as that place “where everybody knows your name.”  The third place principle is practiced by coffee shops, taverns and restaurants.  I consider it an easy way to provide excellent customer service and have fun while doing it!

I know not everyone is comfortable making small talk, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more comfortable you become!  It is an ever upward spiral of happiness (you can practically see the little cartoon bluebirds soaring around and up can’t you?)!  “Try It, You’ll Like It!”

Next time – The Second Element!


Teenage Men and Library Programming – Create the Third Place

First, I apologize for the long hiatus from this blog, however, during that time, I earned my MLIS from UW Milwaukee, so it was worth the wait!

Second.  Take the teenage male. No seriously, take him.  Boys becoming men emit disturbing odors (there are no longer showers after gym class – my son used Axe like water!), their voices are squeaky, arms and legs gangly, feet are humungous they are unsure, and sometimes shy.

Mostly reading isn’t cool.  Mostly they don’t even think they read.

But they do.

GENERALLY SPEAKING we, as librarians try to target this group for programming, or we look at them as Margaret Edwards’ book title:  The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts.”  The boys are, of course, the Beasts.  Rest assured, they will “swarm your fair garden,” and they are of course, still developing as human beings.  But more on this later.

Why do we aim programs at these young men?  Look at children’s/YA literature.

In the early years, we see a lot of “boy books:”  Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton, Encylopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Hatchet,etc.

A little older (pre-tweens/tweens):  Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter, The Ranger’s Apprentice, Erec Rex, 101 Cupboards, The Graveyard Book, etc.

Now we hit the teen years.  WTH?  Twilight, Clique, Gossip Girls –  wait a minute, where are the young man books?  Oh, sure, there is Maximum Override,  books by John Green, Anthony Horowitz, and Sherman Alexie – but overwhelmingly, the teen books are aimed at teenage women, not men.

So we find the teenage men at, you guessed it (good for you) Manga and Graphic Novels.  There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, I myself was a comic book reader – voracious even, it’s how I first read The Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick and other Classics Illustrated.

Reading is reading.

We do want them to read more, though.  So we program to bring them in.  We, as Youth Services Librarians are excited when we get these young men to come to Gaming Night, ecstatic when they join the TAB, and just plain freaked out with joy if they speak to us with more than a grunt and say “that was a great book, do you know any others?”  (actually, just the words (?) ” ‘s allright” give me a chill!

A simple nod from a teenage man, acknowledging your very existence as a librarian who “isn’t too lame,”  well, that is better than fifteen cards from toddlers who give you something they made after storytime!

SO… with all of this non-commital love waiting for you, how do you get them in?


The third place is a place of refuge, a place of safe haven, and a place where you can meet friends and people know you – you can even (gasp!) talk to humans face-to-face, rather than texting.  Ok, sometimes.

The third place is a concept created years ago by Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place (1989, 1991).  Oldenburg saw then (when Netscape was a viable browser!), that human beings needed a place that wasn’t home or work – a third place he called the Great Good Place.  It was a place of community, where you would see people you knew, it could be a coffee shop (it is a founding idea of Starbucks), a bar or a library.

Oldenburg recognized that we are losing our sense of community and connections with other people. We are losing the human touch.  In only 100 years we have gone from predominantly (in the country)horse-drawn vehicles to cars, from biplanes to outer space, from adding machines to computers.

The third place is the way to help re-establish the human connection.  There are 40 Developmental Assets for youth.  Many involve becoming involved and offering them a safe place, a place with adults they can trust.  I could go into homeless teen numbers, but it’s a dark, slippery slope.

Teens need us.  They need us to provide a place where they can come for safety, for relaxation. for fun, and sometimes for protection.

Michelle Gorman gave a seminar called “Not Your Mama’s Library.”  Michelle is about 5’2″ – maybe.  One of the things she trains her YA staff to do is to be welcoming.  I have seen librarians cringe when a school lets out and the kids come into the library.  Security rushes to watch them, librarians give them “the eye” and their fingers go their lips to shush the kids before anything has even happened!

BE WELCOMING!  Greet the kids, say hi, smile, invite them in, show them new books, ask if they need help – give them attention! Follow these steps:

GREET them.  SINCERELY, they are your reason for being a YA librarian.

CONNECT with them.  Learn something about them: their hair, shoes, book they read, jewlery, anything to break the ice and to learn something about them.  It puts them at ease and you learn something about each other.

DISCOVER what they are in for.  Reference help? Internet access? A quiet place to read.  Conduct the reference interview – if they are looking for reader’s advisory help, homework help, find out their needs.  If they don’t want help – let them chill out.  Be discreet and establish a librarian/patron sacred relationship when dealing with sensitive materials.

RESPOND.  Fill their needs.  Recommend a book. Refer them to reference.  Show them that their are actual sources at the bottom of Wikipedia!

THANK them for coming in and invite them back!


Did you know the human brain is not fully formed until our mid 20’s?  This why kid’s sometimes short circuit and even they don’t know why.

Teens are still growing into their bodies – and their minds!  They often short circuit and get angry, or confused.  Often they can’t handle it – without knowing why.

Tiny little Michelle understands this.  When she has a teen that is acting up – she first separates him from the group  – in cowboy terms “cuts him from the herd.”  Now, because she has welcomed them in, and they know who she is, and she knows who they are – the bravado dies down quickly when there is no audience.  Michelle explains the rules and asks for help – giving the teen ownership of the situation – yet controlling it.

I have always been taught to approach angry or upset people with palms open, arms down and facing the person, and to talk with a soothing voice.   Your hands obviously have no weapons or are not clenched for a fight, you are relaxed.

Find out what the problem is.  Re-state it back to the patron, offer a solution.

Next TIme – Establishing your Third Place Web Presence

Early Literacy, Storytime and Adult Learning

Ah, the joy of reading to children! I was discussing with a new friend of mine , Miss Vickie, about our chosen profession, Children’s Librarianship. At almost the same time, we both said “There isn’t a better way to make money, than by reading to children!”
To us, and many others, this is true! What a joy to see children watching and listening as you give life to a book, secretly sharing one or two or more early literacy components, seeing them squirm, and bringing them back into the story by asking a question. Surely this is a form of Heaven here on Earth!

Then I went to my class at UWM on Adult Services, and we had readings on Adult Learning. How similar the way we should be teaching adults and the way we teach children!

We make the assumption (many of us), that adults already know how to learn, that we do not need to be as patient, or caring, or non-judgemental with them -they are adults! We (again, some of us), ass u me (Felix Unger), that adults have the life experiences and have learned the basics. They SHOULD know what to do!

Of course, if they knew what we were teaching, they wouldn’t be there! Many older Americans are turning toward us [libraries] for help with something as simple as email. How to work a cell phone. How to take a simple digital photo, upload it and send it to their children.

We live in an age of technology. Like it or not. It doesn’t care. Technology is here to stay. I happen to love it (most of the time), and I want others to enjoy it, to put it to work for them.

So as you put together your adult programming, think to yourself, this is MY Mom or Dad, they want to see pictures of MY kids (or cat – you know). Embrace them and help them, the rewards are the same as reading to a child, or helping them to learn something new.

Just be respectful, polite, and empathetic. “Walk a mile in their shoes.” Remember that many of today’s elderly gave up a lot during World War II, so that we might enjoy our freedom today.