Though myriad co-work spaces already operate in public libraries across the U.S., Arizona State University is taking it to the next level.
Arizona State University’s Venture Catalyst start-up unit and the Scottsdale Public Library System have announced the introduction of the Alexandria Network, a system of co-work spaces for entrepreneurs in public libraries across Arizona. What's novel? The program will collaborate with libraries to reach entrepreneurs who may be less savvy than their peers and actually train library staff to deal with entrepreneurs.
“A lot of co-working spaces are targeting a particular type of person--this is more broad," Gordon McConnell, Assistant Vice President of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Venture Acceleration at ASU told Inc. "It’s probably for people that wouldn’t go to hipster co-working spaces. It’s great that those are happening—they’re an important foundation level to entrepreneurship. This is democratizing it a little bit."
McConnell also hopes the co-work spaces will be appealing to those among the growing population of entrepreneurs over age 50.
“Those are the people we’re trying to target, and they’ll be geographically spread out,” he added.
The pilot space will open in the Scottsdale Civic Center Library in early April, at which time the initiative also expects to announce the opening of six to eight more locations.
In addition to the work space, the library staff will be trained to provide basic assistance to those who visit the spaces seeking guidance on starting a business. Workshops on topics such as "Business Models vs. Business Plans" and "Legal Concerns for Startups" are currently open to both entrepreneurs and the library staff members learning to help them.
In response to the new intitiave, McConnell said, "[Library staff] were like, 'Yeah, this is great. We need to change. We don’t have this background in working with start-ups, you can support us.'"