The developement of the third place libraries in Europe

Dear Erasmus studentes,

Here is our last report.

After our journey in Croatia, the visits of the French media libraries involving an importing social and friendly aspect, as well as the reading of the reports on third place libraries by our Bulgarian and Turkish partners, we come at the moment to the final synthesis of our tutored project there.

In France, the phenomenon of the third place library is not clearly defined in these terms, but it exists unmistakably. In the Parisian region, place where our visits took place, numerous dilapidated libraries are replaced by extremely modern media libraries, allying technology and help to the person. The library seems to lose little by little its role of preservation of documents and transmission of the information to become a social major place of the city. It is not any more only a place where we borrow books. An impressive quantity of events, animations and services are developed for the users. They become the “living room” of the city by proposing places of conviviality and relaxation within the establishment, the coffee machines, the comfortable armchairs, the writing workshops, the literary debates, musical hours, hours of the tale, etc. Everything is made so that people feel at their home, in a public place with comfortable furniture, a very often original architecture and lively colors. It’s a place of gaiety, pleasure, relaxation to anticipate the culture. Indeed, it’s a fact, these libraries participate strongly in the democratization of the culture by making recent collections accessible to the largest number and adapted to their public. Furthermore they also participate in the social mix by attracting all the categories of population and so they favor the open-mindedness, the tolerance and the multiculturalism.

But this phenomenon doesn’t stop in France. During this project, we have noticed that in Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey, the conviviality and the services around the book are developing too.

In Bulgaria, there is a big request by the people for those places; it can be seen with the quantity of coffee-bookshops and libraries organized to welcome some events. Like the “Library coffee Budda House in Ruse, Bulgaria, which offers drinks, a big selection of deserts, and organize activities like the presentation of new books, a book club, exhibitions, activities for children, or shows. In Sofia, the national library and the city library offer events, exhibitions, concerts, books presentations, Wi-Fi access for all, but they don’t have restaurant or coffees.  The Turkey has a lot of Information Houses, which seem a lot to the cultural centers that we can find in France because there are activities very different like sportive activities, chess tournaments, music lectures, theater, plastic art and many other things. There is generally a coffee or a restaurant, and always a library. In Croatia, the National Library of Zagreb has a restaurant on the last floor.

These changements in the libraries which happened in France, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia are not a tendency relating to our four countries. This third place library phenomenon is spreading everywhere in Europe, as the third place library’s model of Scandinavian countries and Netherland. Indeed, the library of Delf in Netherland is often quote as the perfect example when people talk about social and convivial libraries, because is it possible to read while eating. But the profession of librarian is changing too, with this library’s transformation. Indeed, their mission is not lending books anymore, but it is more social than ever, because librarians have to create and animate events, to teach computering courses, to help people into the library. With the arrival of the digitalization in the libraries, it seems to be a good libraries’ reconversion, in a world more and more individualist and dematerialized, people need to create social links, and third place libraries are the perfect institutions for this because they foster exchange, culture, sociability and open-minded.

Julie, Pascaline & Maxime

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