Libraries Lead Collaboration for Small Business

Library and small business collaboration
New innovation spaces provide benefits to small business and entrepreneurs


From the Ancient Library of Alexandria to present day, libraries have long served as centers of learning. Now, with the rapid proliferation of the Internet, libraries have adapted their delivery model by providing digital access and connectivity to local communities and small business, which is particularly beneficial to those who may previously have been unable to leverage such technology. The rise of new technologies such as mobile and 3D printing has called for further adaptation from libraries—this time to meet the growing interests and needs of patrons in today’s digital society.

There is a metamorphosis underway: libraries shifting from collections of books and static information to dynamic centers of collaboration for local students, entrepreneurs, innovators and others, including small businesses.

Benefits for Businesses

Public libraries in a handful of U.S. cities are developing services and offerings to support innovation in areas such as digital media, design and 3D printing to keep pace with the changing times.

These new innovation spaces are not only providing benefits to the local communities but also to small businesses and entrepreneurs by:


    • Providing opportunities to showcase their expertise and knowledge via activities such as classes or workshops


    • Increasing exposure with local entrepreneurs, professionals and students who could be potential partners, customers or employees


    • Facilitating learning and development by tapping into knowledge outside the organization. as people from diverse disciplines gather in the co-working space


Leading the Way

Chicago, Washington D.C. and Orlando are among the cities embracing this change.

In June 2013, the Chicago Public Library announced the opening of the CPL Innovation Lab at its Harold Washington Library Center as a space to test new ideas and emerging technology. As part of this initiative, the library launched a “Maker Lab” to meet the growing interest in building and design items. The lab, which will run until the end of the year, will offer free access to equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, a milling machine and a vinyl cutter. While many “Maker Labs” have a membership fee, this is the first free public space – once again positioning the library as an open gateway to information and knowledge.

Small Business & Tech Library

Additionally, the nation’s capital took an exciting step with the recent announcement of The Digital Commons at its Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The library took an 11,000 square foot space and transformed it into a center for not only technology experimentation, but also co-working (with new glass-enclosed meeting rooms and large meeting areas) to support the local tech startup and entrepreneur scene. The space is a technology playground with brand new computers (including Macs), software for creative and graphic design, tablets and e-readers, as well as a 3D printer. And while access is free, the library has but one request of those who will be using the co-working space: to share their knowledge for one hour a month through classes. The library is already offering classes in 3D printing, digital painting and more.

MLK Library




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