Emily Badger profiles a program being introduced by Arizona State University - named the Alexandria Network after one of history's most famous repositories of knowledge - that seeks to turn public libraries into co-working business incubators.
"This old idea of the public library as co-working space now offers a modern answer – one among many – for how these aging institutions could become more relevant two millennia after the original Alexandria library burned to the ground. Would-be entrepreneurs everywhere are looking for business know-how and physical space to incubate their start-ups. Libraries meanwhile may be associated today with an outmoded product in paper books. But they also happen to have just about everything a 21st century innovator could need: Internet access, work space, reference materials, professional guidance."
In the university's plan, which is starting with a pilot in Scottsdale's Civic Center Library, "[p]articipating libraries will host dedicated co-working spaces for the program, as well as both formal classes and informal mentoring from the university’s start-up resources," explains Badger. "The librarians themselves will be trained by the university to help deliver some of the material. The network will offer everything, in short, but seed money."
"Public libraries long ago democratized access to knowledge; now they could do the same in a start-up economy."