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The Alexandria Co-Working Network: Libraries as Spaces for Community Innovation

Libraries are no longer limited to bookshelves and computer catalogs, but have transformed into places for children's theater, farmers markets, community porches, and many other creative uses. Common built-in advantages of libraries include public accessibility, meeting rooms, internet access, and, of course, books! These features position public libraries as prime centers for social gatherings and community edification. The inherent potential of libraries as vehicles for community development was realized last year when the Arizona State University Venture Catalyst and Scottsdale Public Library system launched the Alexandria Co-Working Network. The program aims to open public co-working spaces in libraries across Arizona.

Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix, Arizona

Co-working spaces involve a shared working environment occupied by individuals from different organizations or backgrounds. These spaces are growing in popularity in the private sector because of their low cost rent, shared resources, as well as their synergistic effects – described by previous Grid blogger, Alkisti Eleni Victoratou. The Alexandria Co-Working Network strives to take these benefits and make them easily accessible to community entrepreneurs. The program provides:

  • Free collaborative spaces;
  • Access to ASU's mentor network;
  • Classes from ASU's Rapid Startup School; and
  • Physical and digital assets from the libraries.

In just one year, the network has spread to libraries in Scottsdale, Mesa, and Phoenix, with a possible future location in Goodyear. Each city spends approximately $150,000 to create the space and receives free training for its librarians from Arizona State University. Through the program, librarians become business advisors, offering information about community connections for entrepreneurs to move their ideas forward and, hopefully, contribute to the economic development in the state. Each location takes on its own name and identity, such as The Hive at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix and the The Eureka Loft at the Civic Center Library in Scottsdale.

The Hive Co-Working Space, Phoenix, Arizona

The Alexandria Co-Working Network acquired its name from the ancient Library of Alexandria, which was originally designed to be part of a research institute. This idea that a library is not only a resource, but also a location for creating and innovating, is exactly what the Alexandria Co-Working Network aspires to achieve. Libraries have the potential to enable the dreams of everyday community members and produce innovations that spur the local economy.

What role does your local library play in your community? Can you think of creative uses for your library that contributes to the social or economic development of your community?

Credits: Images by Lynn Coppedge. Data linked to sources.