Tuesday, August 7, 2007

a working definition (snicker)

i was responding to brian's comment when i realized i hadn't posted in a while. then my response got longer than a 'comment' should be, so i've posted it in full here. You know, to fill my blogging quota for the week. I'm such a slacker.

read brian's comment on third spaces: libraries.

the way i read "work" here was the place you go to earn money or do a job, not college homework. i consider my public library my third space -- when i get tired of being at home, and i'm not at work, i prefer to leave those two spaces and go somewhere else to surf the web, have a coffee, work on a website.. there's that word again: work. Not $$$ work, but doing stuff work.

In that scenario, I think you might be thinking of the library in the same way I am. "libraries are where the work gets done" -- unless you're suggesting that all students are employed by the library, then I think we're in agreement here.

being social doesn't mean no work can happen either. in fact, in my opinion, social interactions ARE how people learn. in addition, by providing spaces that don't require heavy thinking all the time, we define ourselves as a multipurpose place. Students don't have to be explicitly thinking about doing an assignment or research to come to the library. They could be interested in finding a travel guide for their spring break destination. They could go just to use the computers for Facebooking, hoping to run into real-life friends. They could be fiending for caffeine and choose the library over a coffee shop because there are computer terminals, and they've got to start on their assignment anyway.

I guess another big argument comes from this: how much space do we need anymore? I look at Texas - they've gutted all books from their Undergraduate Library. More stacks are being cleared for study spaces. Would it be inconceivable to put some of that space to use doing these kinds of things?

It all depends on your campus, I guess, and the types of students you have. If they never socialize while they do classwork, or prefer to work in quiet, scholarly spaces when they work, then sure, I agree, keep the cafe away. But that's not how I work. I like buzz around me. I like to sit in coffee shops to do my blogging (what I consider non-$$$ work, I guess. as close as I get to a class assignment). At the same time, I would love to be interrupted by friends just to chat. Maybe chatter will turn into a conversation about what I'm blogging about, then my work is better because of this chance encounter. The coffee shop as third space is the reason this interaction happened.

i don't think libraries should just be big video game arcades. nor do i think that we should ditch the quiet study spaces or all of our collections. but there's value in casual interaction, in thinking of the library as a destination to "just do it" - to just hang out - but I don't think that this kind of space precludes doing assignments. i think it encourages it by bringing people together who are all doing assignments.

Meet for coffee? Ok! Oh, did you finish that paper? Where'd you find your resources?

Do the library's video game tournament? Right on, I'm there. --- then later, "How do I find a scholarly article? I'll ask that librarian who did DDR the other night." (link: so embarrassing. i obviously have never done DDR before. can you tell? thanks josh morse for recording.)