In a follow-up to my previous article, "Why Co-Working Spaces Will be Dead in Five Years" I want to give you real-time examples of public libraries that have taken on the challenge of creating both co-working spaces and maker spaces within their buildings. The library has long been known for its perfect compilation of resources for the curious, entrepreneurs, and business owners.
For years, the library has perfected its mark as the resource center of cities all over the world. As we move deeper into the 21-st century, many libraries around the world are realizing the need for co-working spaces and maker spaces to be provided to the public for free.
At a 40% profitability margin, co-working and maker spaces are in financial trouble, their problem, trying to turn temporary needs into a long term business. The essential flaw with the co-working and maker space model is that there is no such thing as a long term customer. If co-working spaces are actually doing their job, people are leaving all the time because they have grown beyond the space.
Without anyone standing in line to replace those business owners or entrepreneurs, co-working and maker spaces are left with lost revenue and a constant recruiting job for new members. Very few co-working spaces actually serve a specific niche that would ensure that people come to stay, however, the overarching models require long-term commitments.
On the other hand, the public library has no such issue, in fact, from opening time until closing time, you are hard-pressed to find a library without a constant crowd of people because the library serves multiple purposes for a wide variety of people vs relying on two markets, makers, and entrepreneurs. The library has perfected the art of convenience. Adding co-working and maker spaces makes a really good deal great! Imagine the world where your local librarian teaches you how to use a 3D printer, all you need is your library card in order to sign up.
Well, that world already exists. Today we are going to take a look at five public libraries around the world that have made adding co-working and maker spaces a must. First, let's take a look at how ONE gift of $1 million dollars completely turned the Orlando Public Library into the most innovative place in the city.
The micro business center at Akron's public library is much more than just a co-working space, it is also a maker space and a functional space for learning about 21st-century related industries, technologies, and culture. The micro business center came about when a vacated building was seen as an opportunity vs an eyesore near the library. Forward-thinking led to the space being born.
The space is free to use and opened to anyone with a library card, members only pay for their own materials to use in the maker space. The only requirements to begin using the space is filling out an application. The library does not perform background checks, check personal references, interviews, nor does it vet business ideas, yet another misstep of many co-working spaces of today that do not make everyone feel welcome. Libraries have perfected the art of diversity and inclusion, serving the public for a number of years before co-working was even a term. Members receive their second library card, their lanyard which must be worn in the facility at all times upon application approval.
This co-working and maker space haven is located within the public library and is complete with working space, meeting rooms, and resources such as a DSLR Camera, recording studio, Macbook Pros, and more. The space is opened for free to anyone with a library card or if you do not have a library card you can purchase a day pass to the facility. The space also offers a plethora of classes from programming to the digital basics one needs as a business owner.
The Orlando Public Library has truly set the bar with the Melrose Center. The center is a state of the art building that not only plays host to the libraries co-working and maker space, but also the opportunity to learn new careers via simulators such as flight simulators.
Located in the Netherlands, Seats2Meet has turned the idea of co-working and maker spaces into the ideal situation, collaborative pop-up spaces vs trying to turn temporary needs into a long-term business based in one location. This Airbnb model of co-working, networking, and creating is taking the world by storm. Libraries overseas have jumped all over the opportunity to bring this virtual network of people that need space to work, meet, and create.
Hive is a network of co-working and maker spaces within public libraries that touch on different aspects of entrepreneurship and innovation. These spaces span a number of cities making the state of Arizona the leader in library innovation. Much like the other spaces we discussed, all services are free to library card holders.
Libraries as co-working and maker spaces are not just some far off in the future idea, it is a concept that cities all over the world are acclimating themselves to today. Within five years receiving the services for free that one used to receive at standard co-working and maker spaces will be the norm. Libraries make a strong case for eating up vacant buildings in cities and even leading the way in mixed-use real estate. I am excited to see how the evolution of the 21st-century library continues. Does your library include a maker and co-working space? Let me know how your local library is innovating for the future!
One thing is for sure, if co-working space and maker spaces want to survive the 21st-century, they MUST innovate beyond being a place for shared space and making stuff. My prediction is within the next five years co-working and maker spaces will either fail or become part of a larger entity that servers a larger purpose. The idea of stand-alone co-working and maker spaces is dead.