Ms. Dempsey goes on to explain how Borders has designed itself as a "third place," and uses examples from the chain's store design, program offerings, and from a spokesperson from the firm to back this concept up. But I think they miss one key attribute of a true third place. It has to be noncommercial, in my opinion. There should not be the expectation of a purchase in a third place, and although Borders is a wonderful place to lounge (I do it regularly myself), it's still a store. The sound of cash registers, the presence of sale tables, and the offers of gift certificates around the store attest to the nature of the place.
Libraries have managed to keep the commercial element to a minimum. Even those libraries with coffee shops and used book stores seem to have figured how to keep this element in perspective. I was in the Dublin Branch of the Columbus Metro Library on Saturday afternoon, and was struck again by the simple joys of relative quiet and of people sharing a passion for their favorite public service.