I had this idea when I opened the store that I really wanted That Book Store to become a “third space” in the community. A third space is different from your home (first space) and work or school (second space). A third space is a place you can come and meet with others to share common interests, share ideas, relax, unwind, and be yourself.
Does a third space have to be “free” for the community to use? Can That Book Store be a third space and still stay in business? Ray Oldenburg first coined the term “third space”. He argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.¹
I want That Book Store to be more than a place to buy books. Having people who want to “hang out” in the store really warms my heart. This is not to say that I don’t want people to purchase something. I think most people realize that I can’t maintain the store without selling something.
I had an encounter with a person last week that brought a book from home into the store so they could sit and read. The person asked me “Do I have to purchase something or can I just sit and read?” I didn’t even think before I replied, “It is always better to buy something, I have to pay for this space.” The person then walked to the door and left. On the way out, loud enough that I could hear stated, “That was rude!”
This encounter almost ruined my day. It made me feel bad. I thought for a long time on it feeling like maybe I had handled that wrong. I tried to think of what I could have said that would not have offended this person and made them feel like they needed to leave.
Then I realized that the person was probably embarrassed that I didn’t respond the way they expected me to. I feel like this was the equivalent of walking into a restaurant with your own meal and expecting to be able to sit down and eat it. If this happened again tomorrow, I would respond the same way. Because it is absolutely true. I have to pay to exist in that space.
I am so grateful for the people who “get it” and make That Book Store a fun place in the community, even if we don’t fit everyone’s definition of the perfect third space. I see my store being a third space for some people at times and it is so magical. It happened on a random Thursday last week when people who had been strangers were talking and sharing laughs. It happened on Saturday morning when writers got together for a “Shut Up & Write” and then lingered to share ideas. Last night it happened again when we did a trivia night on The Office. The store was packed and it seemed like everyone was having a great time. It is going to happen again this week with book clubs, the Stoa Buddhist Philosophy Group meeting, and a rune making event.
That Book Store is more than a book store.