The University Library Commons As Third Place:
Virtual And Social Dimensions Of Learning Support
Vanessa P. Dennen, Shuang Hao, Samantha Tackett-Bradt & Wade Bradt
Library as the Third Place
¨ The “Third place” (Oldenburg, 1989)
¤ Library as physical third place
n - support not only quiet study, but social study and just
¤ Corresponding virtual third place
¨ How do students make use of intentionally designed
academic third spaces?
¨ How are communication technologies incorporated into
¨ Is there a corresponding virtual component to these
third places? If so, what role does it play?
¨ Do students merge physical and virtual third places?
What are their intentions and purposes in each space?
¨ Quantitative description of observations
¤ Types and uses of physical spaces
¤ Types and quantity of technologies
¤ Social dynamics among people and within the
¨ Content analysis
¤ Archives of students’ interactions via library social
¨ First floor (The Learning Commons) redesigned to
facilitate social study, is the major observation place
for this research.
¨ The most used areas of the Library Commons are
the café and the study rooms
¨ Learning Styles
¤ Study in groups (Afternoons, Evenings, Weekends)
¤ Study individually (Mornings, Weekdays)
¨ Social Media Use (In approximate percentage)
¤ PCs (98%)
¤ Mobile phone (90%) (92% by the survey results)
¤ Facebook (70%)
¤ 161 respondents
¤ 75% between the ages of 18 and 21
¤ 70% visit the library between two and five times per
¨ Reason for coming to the library
¤ Individual study(87%)
¤ Group study (59%)
¤ Use the computers (34%)
¤ Socialize (27%)
¤ Tutoring (11%)
¨ Socialize in the library
¤ Come with friends (52%)
¤ Expect to meet friends (54%)
¤ Expect to see particular person (21%)
¤ Use library resources (21%)
¨ Socialize through social media while in the library
¤ Facebook users (83%)
¤ Twitter users (21%)
44% used these tools to tell
friends where they were
Social Media Findings
¨ Data description
¤ 9660 tweets containing the library’s hashtag were
¨ Data analysis
¤ Two functions of tweets:
n Broadcast a student’s status (e.g., working on a paper at the
n serve as attractors, explicitly calling upon companions to
come study at the library (e.g., Heading to the library to get
some work done on my laptop. Anyone there?) or providing
enticing information about the library to motivate others to
¨ Even when students are studying alone, they may not
really be studying alone.
¨ Dispersed social media updates are a core part of the
library’s reputation and atmosphere as a third place.
¨ The findings of this study confirm the value of offering
on-campus social study space to students to keep them
safe on-campus and encourage the development of
good academic habits.
¨ Implications for future development of campus social
study spaces as well as the use of corresponding virtual
spaces and technologies.
¨ Libraries might mine the social media data produced by
their patrons to learn more about the patrons’ needs.