A program presented at WAPL May 7, 2015 in Wisconsin Rapids by Andy Barnett, Director of McMillan Memorial Library.
Declining AV – streaming services will cannibalize much of our current use. Successor to DVDs is NetFlix, not Blu-Ray Declining print use – partially offset by ebooks used at libraries. BUT – school use is going, as are magazines Our on-line services are powerful, but can be anonymous. Are we getting full credit for them? Even if we do, we are busy creating reasons to NOT visit the building. We promote self-service – quite rightly. Convenience matters. Open hold shelves, self-check, good wayfinding. But are we moving to a convenience store model. Do we spend as much time improving in-house as we do updating Facebook? Do we spend as much time making our brick and mortar as attractive? Pervasive impression that libraries are the past. As asked by local newspaper. We must create our future, not let it happen to us.
Libraries have certainly not been passive in response. Claim credit for our online services – car repair, genealogy, students, local history. Recently completed a book and I used online services and libraries a lot. Better wayfinding, displays, signage, BISAC – something McMillan has presented on in the past. Collections need to be reshaped – less homework based, more informal and lifelong education, suddenly last decade, better resource sharing. Catalogs are big and will get bigger as systems merge. A new breed of programming – creator spaces, authors, musicians, video While we have ALWAYS BEEN AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION, we are now getting more explicitly educational. Interactive – partly a children’s museum. A place kids and their parents will want to come to and remember after they leave. Brian’s presentation on Friday, Columbus PL. And today’s subject.
Information commons in academic libraries is also concerned with the library as a ‘place’, neither classroom or dorm room. Sometime collaborative. In public setting, incorporates concepts from ‘third space’ – more on that later Implementing in public libraries involves a mashup or remix of these, with new considerations
Third place is a commons, shared by community members, or some of the community. Parks. Churches. Not home (private) or work (overtly commercial) Being a librarian – here are two books.
Opera is not a third place. But a county fair might be. As might a café, where people meet and discuss matters. Meeting over food or coffee slows down the pace and changes meeting qualitatively. Accessible is hard to come by these days, when towns no longer have a center. Malls, strip malls and Wal-mart don’t work well as third places. Everybody doesn’t have to know your name, but it helps if someone does. Employees need to be welcoming, but so should other people there. Like an anti-DMV. This involves people, policies and architecture. Events where you can meet your friends, re-connect with people you know and find new people that share your interests. Such third places are becoming less common.
Neutral ground is becoming rare in polarized society. Social capital only flourishes in neutral ground. Money should not be a major factor. Everyone gets a seat and the same basic service. A church might be a third place, but not during a service. Conversation, mingling. No barriers to access. People you know, people you might know or want to know. Familiar and comfy. (St. Stan’s) Playful might seem strong, but self-directed for sure. An extension of the home into a social space. But the authors didn’t really include libraries as third spaces, possibly because they are governmental, maybe because of their academic background.
Sociology and architecture both are interested in social commons. Part of the New Urbanism, livable communities, community placemaking – The Municipality March 2015 A piece of urban development – story about the need for a commons in Rapids
Friendly because they are people, not numbers
There was a point where librarians said that communities don’t have needs, only individuals do. Starting to swing back to a community focus. Communities do exist and they do have needs and they have created libraries to meet those needs. Though Ron’s book pre-dates the Commons at McMillan. McMillan very fortunate to have internal space to convert. Even in 2005, the building was 35 years old.
Zoning a key concept. All libraries have zones, but they aren’t always as intentional as they should be. YS is always a different zone. Meeting rooms have different rules. Zones are more than a matter of rulesets – décor and design set them apart. If you don’t have a social zone, then every space becomes a social zone, unless you forbid social activity altogether.
Most unlibrary-like. Furniture says sit and stay. Groupings say talk and collaborate. Get to know each other. Feel at home. Flooring allows for food, since it is easy to clean spills.
Browsing is a priority in all spaces, but especially so in the Commons. Extra wide aisles to encourage and invite browsing. See Paco Underhill on retail. Large % of circ = large floor space Display shelving for popular collection. But that is another program.
Formal and informal meetings, agencies meeting with clients, people hanging out together. Teens predominate in afternoon, but the space is large enough and divided enough for multiple uses at all times. We allow and sell food and drink, though drink only on the upper level. Have not lost a PC to spills, though keyboards need to be cleaned a little more frequently. Food and drink service helps us make people feel welcome. Gift certificates for programming. Community groups can get coffee pots for meetings. Encourages people to come earlier and stay longer.
Hospitality and stickiness, not profit Breaks even plus, but not enough to operate as a commercial venture. Dual use of staff makes it work – check in and supervision. Expanding menu, but no food prep. Still, sandwiches, pizza, pastries. Iced coffee very popular.
Iterations can make revolutionary changes, since they involve new directions, even if the speed may vary. Need to supervise 5,000 sq ft of space, especially if there are 30-40 teens in it. Very different ruleset than our tradition, which had no social area. Hard to make a library coffeehouse a commercial venture, due to low traffic. After several private sector failures, we took it over and run it with staff. They are busy (one way or another), unlike coffeehouse employees. Wanted a high level of coffee and food, but wanted a low level of prep work. This also ties into the level of food inspection faced. We will need to expand the floorspace of the coffeehouse to accommodate dual use. As we see more wireless, we may cut down on the number of wired stations in the area, making more space. In 2010, the main entrance to the library was moved to the Commons. Lost sq ft, gained traffic. Changed the nature of the place that everyone came through it, so behavior had to be more closely monitored.
The Social Commons in a Public Library
An implementation of a “third place.”
Andy Barnett, McMillan Memorial Library
Declining AV circulation (format extinction)
Declining print usage
More online services = fewer reasons for in-
person use of library
Self-service = less time in library
High tech AND high touch
Questions about the future and necessity of
Time to create our future
Document value of online services
Display oriented library
Reshaping collections to new reality
Programming, esp. creatorspaces
More explicitly educational
Outward facing (Harwood Institute)
Grows out of Information Commons
Based on Third Place concept
Public library mashup
◦ Remix of these with new elements
◦ Government, library tradition, educational, lifelong
Separate from home and the workplace
In The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg
argues that third places are important for civil
society, democracy, civic engagement and
establishing a sense of place
Robert Putnam discuss third places in Bowling
Alone: America's Declining Social Capital
Free or inexpensive (no monetary barrier)
Food and drink, while not essential, are
Highly accessible: proximate for many
Both new friends and old should be found
Conversation is a main activity
Accessibility and accommodation
The mood can be playful
A home away from home
Somehow, they didn’t think of libraries
Part of larger trend
Important piece of development
Sense of place / destination / brand
User friendly / stickiness
Zoning of space
Builds user base at all ages
Guided by our mission - Strengthening our
community through lifelong learning
Outgrowth of Ron McCabe’s book Civic
An internal expansion project, converting
former storage space
Opened in 2005
Commons visibly different from other zones -
décor and furniture
High use (AV) or high browse (magazines /
Mixed use at all times, but with differing
mixes depending upon time of day.
Beverages allowed in most of facility, food
allowed in Commons and main meeting room
Ties to hospitality, programming, community
Supervising the space – esp. after school
Finding balance in rulesets
Coffeehouse failed as a commercial venture,
but succeeded as a staffed service
High level food with low level prep
Need to expand coffeehouse for dual use
Shift to more wireless users
Change of main entrance required rethinking
Presentation online at slideshare.net
McMillan Memorial Library
Andy Barnett, Director