A Third Place

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Leaves crunch under running children’s feet as the gentle squeaking of swings mixes with the excited screams of children on a playground.

“Me first! Me first!” screams a little girl in a pink dress as she runs up to the slide, eager for her short awaited turn.

But not everything here is about youth, on the outskirts of the playground sit the stoic newspaper readers, the baby boomers who came to the park to read a newspaper on the benches or watch their grandchildren play.

This dichotomy of ages and activities at the Richmond/Senator Milton Marks Library is seen clearer here than most places in life. On a daily basis the library and the playground behind it serve a multitude of parents trying to entertain their young children, and older folks enjoying the quiet the library has to offer. Go on a friday afternoon and you’ll practically be run over by either a stroller or a walker.

“It’s close and convenient when you have young kids here. There are kids programs and it’s clean,” said Margot, a mother of two in the Richmond.

“I don’t come here a lot but it’s definitely on par,” said Elizabeth, who came to the park with son.

The library doesn’t only boast a playground and benches to entertain the young and the old, but many classes and events that are open to the public.

This week the library is hosting preschool story time, crafts, computer classes and on wednesday, a “Write Your Will Seminar”.

“The playground and the story time keep my kids entertained and me less stressed,” said Maori, a mother of two who frequents the library a couple of times a week. A thought apparently shared with other parents who tend to socialize with each other as they watch their kids play from afar. Occasionally stepping in to make sure the three minute swing rule is obeyed and everyone gets a turn on the swings.

Although the playground and the downstairs children’s section are social hubs for mothers and their children, the benches surrounding the library and the upper levels of the library are just as busy but more library-ish in noise level. Sitting only inches away from each other, elbows practically touching, there are just as many people in these spaces as are on the playground, only their interactions involve their seclusion in a laptop, a book or a newspaper. Here instead of the yells and cries of children, the space is filled with the realistic sighs and coughs of adults.

When I tried to talk to one of the persons occupying their time in the upstairs part of the library I was told to “shh” by three other people I wasn’t interviewing. A good overview of the atmosphere in that part of the library.

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