When Matthew Baron and Todd Lieberman launched their e-commerce venture, Gourmet Nuts and Dried Fruit, Baron had no knowledge of fruits and nuts. He went to the Free Library of Philadelphia where librarians helped him research the history and health benefits of papaya, almonds, and walnuts, which he later used for writing articles that drive traffic to his website.
Jonathan Marino of Map Story in D.C., works out of the public library to grow his business. The startup partnered with the library to digitize and import thousands of historical maps of Washington D.C. Also, since Map Story is a customer-centric product and its success largely depends on how well the public embraces it, Marino holds informal focus groups at the library in which he gathers feedback from anyone who walks in.
Still think libraries are meant for kids and retirees? Not anymore!
In the recent past, coworking has become a buzzword and many budding entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote employees, who find working from home isolating and distracting, are drawn to it. To keep up with this trend, many new workspaces are popping up every day and established workspaces are expanding.
Coincidentally, this has come at a time when the traditional brick-and-mortar public libraries are struggling to remain competitive and relevant in the age of technology. Most of the libraries around the world, which are already in the process of transforming into digital resource centres, are also striving to enhance their environments to support the rising demand for coworking and informal social learning. Miami-Dade Public Library System, Spokane, Washington, Scottsdale Eureka Loft, are some examples of libraries that have focussed on redesigning to create their own versions of coworking spaces and catering expressly to startups by helping them find funding, mentors, and other resources to advance their business plans.
There’s a plethora of benefits to be found inside libraries. For instance,
- Libraries offer a comfortable, no-frills set up with free internet.
- Where finances could be a limitation for small businesses and entrepreneurs, library membership is affordable.
- For a modern-day corporate nomad, libraries serve as ideal spots for both interactive and solo work.
- The knowledgeable library staff can be helpful in obtaining important and resourceful information for business development, such as the formulation of business plans, business technology, or market research.
Here’s a list of some coworking offices across the globe that have come out of a library:
- Ministry of New, Mumbai, India
Kitab Mahal, situated on the Heritage Mile of Mumbai, it was constructed by a British architect in 1890. As the name suggests, it started off as a hub for book wholesalers including the New Book Co. Pvt. Ltd. who also happened to own the building. However, with the coming of the new landlord, Kitab Mahal is now on a mission to preserve its cultural heritage by chalking out a plan to emerge as a centre of culture and creative thinking.
The idea is to restore the old-world charm of this four-floored building, while also looking appealing to young people. On the third floor is the Ministry of New, an 8,000 sq. ft design-inspired collaborative workspace. A team of dutch co-founders founded this ‘professional oasis’ for independent professionals. The space is punctuated with traditional rugs, vintage chandeliers and multicultural accents and is tastefully constructed with a sunlit courtyard, a stocked library and a soulful gallery to foster creativity and healthy collaboration of members. The library here is a curated collection of international books and magazines and is the perfect spot for a lunch meeting with clients.
The first floor of Kitab Mahal still hosts two book wholesalers and the other floors too have some small offices. But these inhabitants too seem open to the idea of the building welcoming a more artistic crowd.
- Brooklyn Public Library, New York
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) opened the Shelby White and Leon Levy Information Commons in January 2013. The multifaceted Info Commons is a digital media lab besides being an unofficial coworking space. It is an ever-bustling and vibrant space with people doing everything from editing videos on iMacs to holding study group meetings. People can use their library card to book time for private meeting space or work at open tables.
- Richland Library, Downtown Columbia, South Carolina
The Coworking Center in the Richland Library was designed in 2013 with the hopes of offering professionals an easily accessible workspace that could serve as an alternative to noisy and crowded coffee shops. The library was already providing facilities such as WiFi, parking, restrooms, on-site printing, so developing it into a full office was a sensible decision.
- Seats2meet, Netherlands
Seats2meet.com is a local coworking office provider in the Netherlands and has four libraries in its ecosystem. They are driven by the motive to become more open, provide community services beyond lending books, and connect and co-create their future with their local community.
- The Scottish Coworking Network by the Scottish Library and Information Council, Scotland
The Scottish Coworking Network is a new network of business hubs within Scotland’s public libraries – the first coworking network of its kind in Scotland and the UK.
The project aims to assist the development of local enterprise by offering not only a workspace but also a community space where entrepreneurs, freelancers and microbusinesses can meet, work and collaborate.
Since success of a small business or solo entrepreneur is greatly dependent on contacts and connections, the connected nature of the hubs allows people from different backgrounds and geographical areas to collide and interact. The hubs offer the chance for members to run talks and events, to communicate and spread great ideas.
Libraries have always been the perfect environment for advancing community learning & growing knowledge and this project is just another extension of that.
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