Over recent weeks we’ve been discussing issues related to reopening, that touch on both work and non-work concerns. In our previous meetup, we’d talked quite a bit about the social experience of reopening. In our meetup on 29 May, we spent some time discussing the importance of libraries and community spaces, pre-covid, and how that might change post-covid.

In most of our communities, libraries and other shared community spaces have been locked down for weeks – in some cases, they still are. Libraries, in particular, serve an important role in education and access to information, space, programs and services across our communities. While borrowing physical books is still a part of what libraries do, in the ‘digital era’ libraries have had to evolve to stay relevant, and to continue to service the needs of their community. Most libraries offer shared computers to allow those without reliable internet access to participate in a digital society. Some libraries even offer spaces for coworking, acting as a ‘third place’ and a community hub for workers and small business as well. What do we do with all this shared space and these shared physical resources in a post-covid world? How do we manage hygiene, provide and assure a sense of safety, and still serve the community effectively?

None of us in our meetup community are librarians, so we certainly don’t have all the answers! But there have been some interesting articles on the subject, which are worth a read:

There are a few reasons why this matters from a work context. Firstly, we’re all members of our local community, so naturally how resources and services are provided, shared and used is important to each of us. Secondly, it’s always useful to draw on alternative perspectives when we look to solve our own problems, especially when those problems are the same or at least very similar. We need to work out how to manage the shared space of the workplace – how are libraries proposing to do this? How are museums? What about amusement parks? Workplaces in other industries? And so on.

And finally, the challenge of the third place in a post-covid word is one that may have direct impact on not only our workplaces, but ourselves as workers too. For the past 12 weeks, gone were the days of working from your local cafe or library. In the transition phase, the question of whether it’s ethical to work from a cafe taking up space has changed – how much do you need to order and spend in order to be fair? And as we move through different phases, that ethical question remains – where once we may have sat with one or two coffees for several hours, is that the right thing to do now (if it ever was)? Instead, perhaps more of us might like to turn to the library as a third space – but how do we ensure we are using this space fairly? Or, perhaps more importantly, how will the library ensure space is used fairly, to give equitable access to all who want or need to use it?

And it’s not just about our potential desire to work in a third space, whether during a transition phase getting back to the physical office, or longer-term in our – hopefully – now more flexible and remote-work-friendly workplaces. It’s also that these questions apply to our own organisations. How will we manage access fairly and equitably if we can’t simply go back to having everyone in the office from 9-5? How do we prioritise needs? How do we best serve wants while ensuring needs are met? And how do we support our people through all of this?

Join us tomorrow, 5th June, at 8am Sydney time, for our next meetup as we continue to work through our thoughts and experiences of the transition to reopening our communities and our workplaces. RSVP here.


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