Is Third Place Better Than First?


We recently had an opportunity to be on St. Louis on the Air to talk with host Don Marsh and Scenic Regional Library director Steve Campbell about the evolving role libraries are playing in our society.

JEMA is currently working on our 9th library for Scenic Regional and seeing the interaction between each new library and its own community has been a learning experience for JEMA. We see that libraries are a passport to travel beyond the confines of each town – while at the same time, libraries are an invitation to engage with our neighbors and revitalize our communities. Libraries are paradoxical places: on one hand they are institutions rooted in their distinct regions and communities and on the other hand, they are places tied only to the realm of our imagination. At once here and everywhere, libraries fulfill our instinctual need for social gathering and for exploration and imagination.

No where is a public library more important than in small town America. In many small towns, there are no community centers, no major cultural or learning institutions. The springboard of imagination, culture, arts, literacy and community is the town library.

Libraries are the great living rooms of our society. Seniors, Adults, Teens, Children and Families across all economic, racial and gender landscapes come together in this, the most unique of all public institutions. The idea of the “Third Place” as described by Ray Oldenburg in his book, “The Great Good Place” is that outside of our home (our First Place) and our work (our Second Place), there exists a THIRD PLACE. This Third Place is where we gather, we talk, we meet others…we make community. JEMA sees the library as the quintessential Third Place.