The Living Room Project
A plush, floral fabric love seat sits at the Charles County Public Library’s La Plata branch, beckoning guests to relax and unwind. As part of a larger mission, the furniture is a step for the library to begin something first of its kind in the country: the public living room.
The public living room was created by Maff Potts, the director of a U.K.-based nonprofit called Camerados. After working with the homeless for 22 years, Potts said he realized there were two factors people needed, besides housing and money, to transform their lives: friends and purpose. He sought to create a space that would foster those connections.
The idea spread and now the U.K. boasts four public living rooms — in Blackpool, Camden, Oxford and Sheffield — and one opened weekly in Brooklyn. Charles County aims to house the first permanent public living room in the country.
“When a person is isolated, for whatever reason, he or she may not be able to see the possibilities around them,” said Janet Salazar, executive director of Charles County Public Library. “The library is here to help by offering a comfortable place to sit, a small project to work on, a cup of coffee or tea, and most important of all, a friendly face.”
A living room is currently set up at the La Plata branch on Garrett Avenue and if the idea takes off, there is a possibility for more to be added to other branches in the county.
Thanks to a donated couch and Keurig machine, the space is on its way to looking like a cozy and comfortable room found in a home.
With the La Plata branch sitting adjacent to the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, the space can offer solace to anyone seeking refuge from possible bad news.
“We have people come into the library who have loved ones at the hospital and the living room can be a comfortable place for them to wait for and process news, good or bad,” said Lloyd Jansen, La Plata branch manager. “We thought those people may be going through a difficult time with loved ones in the hospital and having a place for them to relax and collect their thoughts may be a good thing. But it’s also for anyone who is feeling isolated for any reason and wants a quiet place they can just be or interact with others who may be in a similar situation.”
Seeing his idea spread to other countries makes Potts feel “very inspired,” he said, adding that he is meeting someone in Melbourne, Australia next month to talk about the project and has received inquiries from around the globe.
“I have always found Americans to be curious and more positive about new ideas. Janet Salazar at Charles County Library epitomizes that,” Potts wrote.
“I truly feel that public libraries exist to serve their communities and that we help people every day,” Salazar said of the library’s mission. “I don’t know that the public really understand that that’s what we do. We’re here to help you and we’re here to connect you to what you need.”