Libraries as Co-working Spaces

People co-working at a table in a library

In the recent past, there has been a tremendous rise in the number of people living the digital nomad lifestyle. As a result, co-working has become a draw for many budding entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote employees. This new style of workspace gives individuals, startups, small businesses, and the like the opportunity to have an office environment without high overhead or a long-term lease. Often these spaces are filled with like-minded individuals who can capitalize on the networking and collaboration opportunities that can be had as a "resident" of such a space.

To take advantage of the trend, the co-working market has expanded remarkably, with new spaces popping up every day and established spaces expanding. Most of the big players in the co-working venture, such as ServCorp, Regus, WeWork, WorkBar, Davinci, The Yard, and Cross Campus, are reaping huge profits.

That being said, most burgeoning entrepreneurs and startups are cash-strapped and may not be able to afford the fees for co-working spaces. Nor do they want to spend eight hours sitting in a cafe ordering drinks they cannot afford, just to be polite.

Meanwhile, innovative and enterprising librarians, such as those in the Miami-Dade Public Library System or Spokane, Washington, have identified the gap in the market and are redesigning their libraries to create their own versions of co-working spaces. Coincidentally, this has come at a time when libraries are struggling to remain competitive and relevant in the age of technology.

How Are Libraries Reinventing as Co-working Spaces?

In a bid to address the changing needs of the citizenry, libraries are establishing co-working spaces through digitization and creative use of their spaces. Many public libraries devote a great deal of space to library materials that are no longer useful. These spaces see limited foot traffic, and the reading material remains on the shelves gathering dust. In response to this, librarians are taking the bold, controversial step of moving bookshelves aside to create more communal spaces.

Such renovation creates new room for co-working spaces. The revamped spaces incorporate makerspaces, common areas, and conference rooms. They provide a great environment for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other independent specialists to interact as well as for individuals to focus and get their work done. The workspaces are properly equipped with custom-made tables for laptop users and electrical outlets where patrons can plug in their devices.

Libraries are also investing in technology in an attempt to attract more freelancers to their spaces. Public library co-working spaces offer unstructured access to technological tools such as large-format printers, 3D printers, smartboards, and computers equipped with advanced design software such as CAD. Other features include conference facilities with equipment such as interactive whiteboards and flat-screen monitors for use with computers.

What Are the Benefits of a Public Library Co-working Space?

The number of independent workers is rapidly growing, and most of them are freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers. As a result, the need for co-working is on the rise for those who find working from home isolating and distracting. A public library is a great entrepreneurial workspace that provides several benefits to co-workers.

Space to Focus

A library offers a quiet space away from visual distractions where you can focus, think, do your research, and get your work done. Although libraries may incorporate collaboration areas in their spaces, you can still find some private space where you can concentrate on your work.

Value for Money

Most co-working spaces are prohibitive to entrepreneurs who are starting out because of financial requirements. Library membership, on the other hand, is affordable. Also, libraries offer Wi-Fi connection, allowing you to utilize all the digital tools necessary for the success of your business. Thus, a library offers you an affordable, comfy work area and free Internet connection, which ultimately saves you money.

Business Resources

Library membership comes with unlimited access to library resources. This means that you can get any information that might help a business, such as regulations and licensing requirements, tax information, and much more.

Reference Librarians

The knowledgeable library staff offer great resources across the board. They can help you obtain important and resourceful information for business development, such as the formulation of business plans, business technology, or market research.

Collaborative and Inspiring

The open-plan spaces encourage conversation and interaction between co-workers. Independent professionals can share ideas, collaborate, advise, or exchange services among themselves. Interaction and sharing of concepts and ideas among the freelancers, entrepreneurs, and part-timers fosters innovation and creativity for a more profitable experience.

Tech Hubs and Makerspaces

Today, most libraries have tech hubs and makerspaces. These places offer free access to state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D printers, large-format printers, laser engravers, electronic projectors, computerized design tools, and much more. Through collaboration with other co-workers, you can learn how to utilize these resources to develop your enterprise.

Avoiding Loneliness

Working alone at home can be isolating and lonely. Human beings are social creatures who need companionship to thrive. Co-working even amidst complete strangers leaves workers feeling energized and happy.