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People who need places January 27, 2006

Posted by unamable in Library 2.0, library thing, LibraryLand, Repatronising.

Just to ride a little on the piece in dave’s blog about the Third Place – I will extract a bit , from The Great Good Place

“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends…They are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, ………”

Glossing over the fact that the Third Places which Oldenburg mentions does not include a library – too serious? too homely? too work-related? We can see in the paragraph mirror which he throws up what we aspire for in our libraries – can we not?
Dave’s (if I may be so familiar) suggested infiltration of the First and Second places. To be somewhat immodest I have been writing this into library plans for a variety of communities, educational and professional, for the last four to five years. In the last three years, the inclusion of wifi and broadband in every project I work through is a given – Singapore is very progressive in that way. In terms of our own library system, several examples come to mind – the access to our digital library from home and our increasing outreach to the work sectors with targeted content and the efforts we are making to reach out to adults, young people, children and senior citizens. The question however remains how do we move our patrons from the usual Googling for recipes at home and perhaps for benchmarking studies for work. (How often do I want a depth of response to my query at work – quite a lot. At home ..not very much unless I am bringing my work to my home)

It is this word “embedding” which keeps coming up for me – and its not just getting the implant artist to make me virtual and findable. It’s somehow getting “the library” to be the first thought after someone feels the lack of a bit of information, a lump of knowledge or a document about something they saw, heard, discussed or can’t quite remember. And then enabling them to immediately do something about it – like the way I flick between TV and my search engine when I feel the depth of my ignorance about an entertainment bubble I am watching. The search engines have got in there and done a wonderful job – especially if you are precise in your needs and only want that quick fill-in-the-blank feeling.

The embedded idea has been around in academic libraries for about a year (to my knowledge) arising out of the embedded journalists during the “assault phase” of the Iraq War. The nearest we in public libraries get to it at the moment is to embed links to the librarian in our webpages, such as RSS feeds, virtual reference or chat services. With the various widgets becoming available we would hope that, for those willingly to use them, they will provide a reminder of the library wherever they appear. Perhaps this is enough unless we really do want to get into a one-to-one relationship with our users cloning our services virtually in response to the continually updating “profiles” or “personas” of our patrons – or is there more?



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