I’m heading out of town for a few days to a family reunion. Inevitably someone is going to ask me what I’m doing now and when I tell them I’m working in a library, they’re going to say something like, “I thought libraries were obsolete. What do we need them for now that everyone’s got the Internet?”
If instructors in Library schools across the country and forward-looking librarians had not gotten this message a couple of decades ago, libraries might be obsolete by now. However, they are not. The main reason libraries are not on the way out is because they have changed, adapted and grown as they’ve embraced technology and noisy activity in libraries instead of turning away from it. You might think I’m referring to e-readers, Wi-Fi, tablets, public Internet PCs, e-books and the like, but that is only touching the surface. We have some real opportunities in Camp Verde to offer state of the art technology, resources and services that will bring NEW educational, entrepreneurial and economic benefits to our community.
Come with me on a little journey that a van full of Camp Verdeans recently took to the Phoenix area. First stop, ASU Skysong. There’s a little thing called the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at ASU that is pioneering work with business startups and collaborative workspaces and practical academics through Skysong that have had a positive impact on economic development. The leader of this little thing, Gordon McConnell, created another little thing called the Alexandria Co-working Network. Named for the oldest known library in Alexandria, the Alexandria Network is formed when ASU partners with libraries across the state to bring resources from ASU and Skysong to other communities. This means access to ASU’s Rapid Startup School practical education courses for FREE. Thus the network expands. Libraries are partnering with the Small Business Services through the Arizona Commerce Authority, SCORE, retired business leaders or local community colleges to bring free classes and mentoring to their communities through LIBRARIES. This little thing at ASU Skysong is putting Arizona State University in the national and international spotlight, not as a great party school, but as a leader in economic development!
Next stop, Eureka Loft at Scottsdale Civic Center Library. Eureka Loft is the first Alexandria Co-Working space created through a partnership between the Scottsdale Public Library and ASU. They have been operating for one year and can claim at least 8 new business formed as a direct result of interaction in Eureka Loft, 7,344 visitors, 2,556 program attendees, and 186 one-on-one mentoring appointments. Eureka Loft offers daily classes, small business support groups, business mentoring, access to technology, access to reference materials and reference librarians and much, much more. They recently held a Gadget and Demo Day inviting people to demonstrate the coolest gadgets and products while creating a networking opportunity for attendees and presenters alike. This year Eureka Loft will expand its services to add a media room with a green screen where people can film and record their own marketing videos, edit their audio and video recordings to end up with a finished product for distribution.
Last stop, THINKspot at Mesa Public Library Red Mountain Branch. THINKspot is also an Alexandria Co-Working space connected to ASU Skysong. But, it is not at all like Eureka Loft. THINKspot is more like a creator/maker space combined with a co-working/networking space that offers the same opportunities for entrepreneurial support and small business mentoring as Eureka Loft, as well as creative opportunities like Lego Mindstorm classes, 3D printing and design, zSpace 3D technology, a media creation/editing room and more. I could spend the rest of my life in THINKspot and never run out of something to learn or do. It’s a colorful dynamic space that offers hands-on workshops, boasts a coding club, hosts TEDTALKS, and much, much more.
What I’ve been talking about goes way beyond e-readers, e-books, tablets and smartphones. I’ve painted a very tiny picture into the possibilities I see for Camp Verde and part of what I mean when I say we are just getting started in our current facility. The potential is huge and we will tailor our Alexandria Co-working space to the needs of Camp Verdeans just like Eureka Loft and THINKspot are uniquely suited to their communities. Follow the links below to take your own virtual tour of these spaces and read what they are doing. If you don’t know what they are talking about, I bet your kids or grandkids do.
I have met several times with the leaders at ASU Skysong, Jim Cook and Tracy Lea. They are excited about the prospect of expanding the Alexandria Co-Working Network to Camp Verde. For one thing, they love the Verde Valley and look forward to an excuse to come up here. For another, they share our desire to offer opportunities that support education, entrepreneurial efforts and most of all, spur economic development. Our community leaders, Charlie German, Russ Martin, Steve Ayers, Tom Pitts, Steve Goetting and many others are working to get the broadband we need to make this venture successful. We have an amazing opportunity in front of us that is only possible with a new library. And, this is only one aspect of the possibilities we foresee available in the new library. Don’t even get me started on our ideas for the Teen Library, the grant money we have already received toward it and our dreams of employing teens to run it…