On Saturday morning after I gave some blood, I bolted to a nearby cafe to get something to eat. Having fasted overnight, I was feeling light headed and I had to eat something quick or risk fainting. I knocked back a cup of coffee and a sausage roll and at once, all was well in the world. With my blood sugar back to normal levels, I felt confident that I could now drive home safely. Instead of going home though, I decided to drive a couple of suburbs south from me, to a place called Clayton as I wanted to check out the Clayton Library as another potential possibility of my ‘Third Place’.
The library is actually part of a Community Centre that was opened six years ago and houses a swimming pool, gym, counselling service, theatrette, meeting rooms and a cafe. It has free wifi (if you’re a member) and plenty of spaces where you can meet others to work, learn or study. With tall windows that let in natural light, it has a warm and comfortable feel and the staff are pleasant and most helpful.
I was asked by a woman holding a clipboard if I wouldn’t mind answering some questions about the library. I explained that I wasn’t a resident of the area – nor was this my local library so I didn’t know if my responses would help her in any way. It turned out that Ann-Marie was responsible overseeing the operations of the six libraries in the City of Monash!
(My initial thought was that all my Christmases had come at once and another example of serendipity. Over the last few months, I had been thinking of how to connect with the Councils – or local government authorities on this concept of a “community workplace”. Here was the person who was responsible for the City of Monash – not my local council but hey, beggars can’t be choosers…)
I started talking about how I was simply researching “Third Places” in my local community. I explained that as more people were becoming freelance consultants and working from home, I was now becoming more interested in finding out community spaces (other than cafes), where people of my age (who were still of working age) could gather and meet to co-work and learn.
As soon as I mentioned Third Places, her eyes lit up and she directed me to have a seat. We chatted about the concept of how libraries now have a stronger role in the community especially as the demographic of patrons will change over time. We looked around and saw that the people visiting the library were students, senior citizens or mothers with children.
(Of course, it was a Saturday morning so this demographic may change during the work week? My assumption is that the demographic does not change even during the work day).
So where do people my age who are freelancers, consultants or solo agents gather to meet with clients and others during the week for learning, connecting or working? Does it mean that I still have to travel into the city to find co-working spaces – why aren’t they out in the burbs too?
From what I see, the only gathering place seems to be the local cafe. But are cafes the right place to gather to work?
I’m sure that cafe owners may take issue with people holding valuable table space and only buying a cup of coffee for the whole day. However, looking around my local community the only other place outside of the cafe is the library.
My fellow colleagues would exclaim, “The library? Who goes to a library anymore? Who actually reads physical books?” Some of them can’t even recall the last time they were IN a library.
This is an interesting stereotype with people my age. It was mine too. I hadn’t visited a library for over 6 or so years until last year and it wasn’t about borrowing books – it was about finding a space with wifi where I could simply set myself up for the day to work outside of my home.
I also needed to be close to a cafe for my coffee, a place where I could have a bite to eat and close to the amenities. I also wanted a space where I could gather a small group of people if I needed to. But it brought up an interesting question, “would I bring a client or work with peers into a library – is it the right ‘space’?”
So the question is do libraries serve a purpose for those professionals who are still working within the community or is there some other place?
My thinking is that there are local businesses who have space such as conference rooms, meeting rooms, and amenities that can be made available. So what if they opened their doors to have members of the community use their space?
While I was on one of my daily walks, I stumbled upon the Bendigo Bank Community Hub in Murrumbeena. Although I didn’t go inside, I did stick my face against the window and saw people sitting around the board table stare back at me with curious looks.
So it looks Bendigo Bank is opening their branches to be community hubs (which is great as this was an idea I touted to my previous organisation as a potential new role of certain branches in communities and the role of branch managers to be more like community network or local area business connectors but I simply didn’t have time to explore this concept further – whether it’s valuable to attach it to a business or just have a separate ‘third space’ entity completely is debatable. I had my normal job to do and didn’t have time to come up with high falluting ideas that could stray me from that but it’s obvious to see that it’s been playing on my mind…)
So maybe we can look at other places like universities or art galleries – something completely left field? What if we co-worked in spaces that were totally different to where we normally would work. I’d be happy to work for a day at an architects office. Something completely different to what I’m used to with people who I have never worked with before?
Can we have a Third Space area by a Local Business Community Exchange – certain businesses opening their doors to have people co-work on their premises?
I live close to one of the premier Australian universities, Monash University. As a university student there back in the early 90’s, I’m now having the urge to revisit my old stomping ground to see if there are any community hubs for business and freelancers to work there. One day soon, I will walk around this campus to seek out some Third Place spaces and I’ll let you know how it goes. Another option that I will explore as a new third place in the ‘burbs will be the Monash Gallery of Art.
Update on Third Place:
- Last week I had a wonderful Skype chat with Alberto Pastorelli, an e-learning instructional designer and developer in Modena Italy who wanted to take Third Place to Italy! Stand by, for more news and I’ll advise when this happens for our Italian learning and development friends.
- Sydney will have its first Co-Working event at the ID Crowd on Friday 26 September (thanks to @Tanya Lau, @Ryan Tracey and Nicole White @MissScriptID for organising)
- Melbourne will be trialing out a new co-working space at the Queen’s Collective on 1st October (thanks to @LearnKotch for organising)
- I have also organised a special behind-the-scenes tour and brief on how the Royal Australian Navy trains its recruits on Wed 8 October at HMAS Cerberus. It will be an opportunity to see experiential training in action and speak to the recruits and staff on training issues, opportunities and challenges.
- Big thank you to @TejasPatel for creating a Twitter List for Third Placers. This twitter list will grow with time so feel free to subscribe and get tweets from those in our group!