Reflection: Market Public Libraries as a Third Place

I will be reflecting on the New Models module. I really enjoyed reading and thinking about public libraries as a third space. Wood says, “The term [third space] refers to space that is separate from home and work where we seek conversation, neutral ground, and comfort in feeling connected” (2020, para 1). A few years ago, I vacationed in Spain, where I encountered a “plaza” everywhere I went.

Plaza del Sol in Spain
Photo by Álvaro Bernal on Unsplash

A plaza is a big open space in the middle of the city where people gather, meet up, sit, chat, eat, and whatever else. In the United States, I feel that there is a distinctive lack of a third space where people are free to hang out without purchasing something. Klinenberg discusses this when he mentions the Black men who were arrested for hanging out at Starbucks a few years ago (Peet, 2018, para 20). Libraries already are a third place for many people! The importance of a library for people who come to the library to gather, seek conversation, and find a neutral ground, cannot be understated. The people who use a library as a third space are content, they are (usually) happy with their space. The issue is that the people who say ‘libraries are obsolete,’ or ‘we should replace all libraries with amazon stores,’ are the ones being heard. It’s the people who see the library as a wasted business opportunity that are publishing their opinion and garnering attention. We need to market libraries as a third place of the same caliber as the plazas in Spain. A space where everyone is welcome and where you won’t be kicked out for not buying anything.



Peet, L. (2018). Libraries and Social Infrastructure.

Wood, E. (September 30, 2020) The rise of third place and open access amidst the pandemic. American Library Association. 


  • Michelle Rasmuson

    Dear Isabel, I completely agree with you that community infrastructure in America feels lacking, especially in the places where they are needed the most. We desperately need third spaces that have no financial requirement in order to relax and use bathrooms. Without libraries, there might not be places in cities with water fountains, restrooms, or free wifi ( which is the new public pay phone ). A library is ideally a sanctuary above and beyond all else.

  • Julia

    Hi Isabel, I really enjoyed your blog post. America definitely has the mentaltity of making work a priority. I’ve never visited Europe, but have read that many European nations stress the importance of taking time to enjoy life. Many countries take extended lunches just to enjoy the day in the company of others. Libraries very much should be welcoming of individuals from all walks of life. While libraries are safe spaces, they should also be inviting to new library users as well. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kylii Watkins

    Hi @isabelr !

    The plazas in Spain look gorgeous, thank you for sharing the picture! I agree that the U.S. is greatly lacking these third spaces for people, especially BIPOC groups, who, as we have seen over and over again, cannot exist in public spaces without drawing negative attention. I am excited to see more and more libraries adopting the “library as the third place” model and I hope changes can be enacted before too many people agree that Amazon should replace libraries. It would be fantastic to see these plazas pop up all over the U.S. to encourage community and collaboration, and I think the library truly is the best place to start.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Michael Stephens

    @isabelr I have been taken by thriving public spaces in other countries for years: Europe, the UK, Australia, New Zealand… it’s so interesting to think about the “plaza” you mention. The third place in the US is elusive: Starbucks? Panera?

  • Jason Yearick

    Hi @isabelr !

    I enjoyed reading your reflection. The mall stands out to me regarding the question of the third space in the United States. I think the mall used to be a third space, not just for young adults, but for everyone. At least, I remember a time, even as an adult, when “going to the mall” was a legitimate activity to connect with “everyone” and be seen. Although malls were full of shops, going to the mall didn’t mean you had to buy anything. However, since COVID and the increase in online shopping, I think malls aren’t the places they used to be.


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