In "The Great Good Place," author Ray Oldenburg writes of the places we go – the coffee shops, community centers, taverns, salons, cafes – that encourage informal, public gathering. The places where people get to know each other and develop a sense of innate belonging. They are the "third places," the ones aside from home (first) and work (second) where we choose to spend our time. In these places, we feel free to engage socially, relax, and maybe discuss ideas that lead to some greater good. These third places are the heart of a community.
Even though I work here, the library is still very much a third place for me. And, with its tremendous community of supporters and over 2,000 visitors every day, very much a third place for Princeton. Our library is where people learning to speak English can gather to practice; it's a place where civic-minded individuals can strike up a conversation and enter into lively debate with a fellow diner at Terra Libri Cafe. The library is also a place where friends can brainstorm in a meeting room space as they pore over a business-launch proposal – or where those with similar interests might get acquainted while browsing shelves of books on climate change. Our library is the community's living room, and where else but in the living room do we do most of our reading, thinking, discussing, learning – living – with others?
As we undergo a renovation this spring, I'm excited to think about the ways in which Princeton might gather on our reimagined second floor. You have been at the heart of the reimagining, and we have aimed to reflect the ways you engage as we plan the new spaces, furniture and technology that you will see. Our book collection will be arranged in a way that fosters serendipitous discovery. And our services will be designed to help you accomplish all that you want to do. How the new space will become your great, good place will become clear in time, but I hope that you will enjoy it as much as we have enjoyed reimagining it for you.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user John Weiss.)
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