OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Startup Libraries *Updated*

The 'Startup Libraries' provide workplaces, supportive tools and information, and a social environment for startups that are in need of such infrastructure, by leveraging the existing network and facilities of public libraries.

Photo of DeletedUser
32 43

Written by DeletedUser

In 2011 I started working on an idea for a web application with two friends. Since we didn’t have an office, we decided to work in the local public library, which provide a workplace and internet.
For our first months, the library provided our basic needs, and it really helped in getting our startup off the ground. However we continuously felt the place could have been an even better environment for starting a web-business.
Here is from our own experience, what startups need;

Startups need:
1) location: A place to work, that is quiet and ergonomic, It also helps if it’s a nice and inspiring environment
-Good working desks, decent chairs
-Fast internet

2) knowledge. Startups have a big need for knowledge. I have met few entrepreneurs that are experts in all fields that concern a startup. Lots can of course be found online, but some good books and specialized magazines still turn out to be helpful. Then there is also all sorts of information from local governments and instances, such as organizations like chamber of commerce.

-There could be several racks of books that are of special interest for startup entrepreneurs. For example books on business, design or software.
-Events with speakers on startup topics could be organized.

3) social environment.
Then there is the social aspect. Though we all know the story of the lone genius in his dorm room or garage, in real life most startups thrive in an environment where they meet like-minded souls, and also run into surprising new faces. and the network effect can definitely help startups:
Startups can learn from each other and support each other in the process. The feeling of being part of a community also really helps to motivate.

Creating such places in our cities from scratch would be very expensive. However there is a great infrastructure of places designed to learn and grow; Public libraries.

This initiative also benefits the libraries, which suffer from declining visitor numbers and relevancy. Through this concept libraries can once again become important places in our societies. T he library gets a whole new image, making it an exciting and vibrant environment for people to go. A place where you can work during the day and when leaving for home pick up a good book or magazine of interest!

Incentives for the libraries:
-Increasing visitor numbers, renting out more books.
-Reaching demographics that now do not visit libraries, and thus becoming once again relevant for the whole community.
-New sources of revenue: Rent out supplies such as projectors, sell coffee and tea, host events with speakers.
-There could even be concepts in which startups agree to pay back the library for their use in case the become successful.

How will your concept support web entrepreneurship?

It will provide accessible breeding grounds for startups by providing their basic needs. It will also make becoming a startup more tangible and visible to others, thus inspiring them to start working on their own ideas

What kinds of resources will be needed to get this concept off the ground and scale it?

Funds that are now allocated to libraries could be increased with funding allocated to stimulating web startups to provide for the costs of furnishing the libraries into workable places for startups Libraries could sell coffee, rent out things like projectors, and provide courses and speakers amongst other things to find additional resources for revenue. The great thing is it need not be expensive. the places already exist. they have internet. the racks of books are there. Allocate some space to working desks, move over the racks with design and business books, place a coffee machine, and make sure you do some branding and marketing to attract the startups. Can be pretty low costs.

How could we get started?

-Start trials in some existing libraries. improve the concept based on feedback from both startups as visitors. then expand the concept to more and more libraries. You could easily start this in a lean way. -In cities where new libraries are being built or refurbished, this concept could be taken into the plans right from the start. It would be useful to create a extensive 'roadmap' that local libraries can use to get help when implementing this concept.

Evaluation results

14 evaluations so far

1. How well does this concept address a significant pain point felt by European web start-ups?

This is a major pain point for European start-ups - 42.9%

This is a "nice to have" but not a serious pain point - 57.1%

I really don't know - 0%

2. How novel do you think the concept is?

Never seen it before - very novel! - 0%

This is common in some places but not in many parts of Europe - 42.9%

This is not novel but a good iteration - 50%

There are already other solutions out there that address this problem - 7.1%

3. How easy is this concept to implement and maintain?

It could be implemented quickly and easily maintained - 42.9%

It could be implemented quickly but will require regular updates to ensure it is accurate and relevant - 14.3%

It is a big undertaking and would need a lot of support and cooperation from people and organisations to make it happen and to maintain it - 42.9%

4. What type of organisation is best placed to take this forward?

The European Commission should own this one - 0%

This belongs with member state governments (e.g., the UK, Belgium, etc) - 35.7%

This is best being owned by a private company - 0%

This feels like a non-profit - 50%

This is a start-up itself! - 14.3%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world! - 35.7%

I liked it but preferred others - 42.9%

It didn’t get me overly excited - 21.4%


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Does anyone have examples of this concept already happening in libraries? Share them!

Photo of Paul van Zoggel

The library in Amsterdam and Almere in Netherlands have many individual workplaces ( and meeting rooms, but not (yet) incubator style. Mainly I think because of the 'sound' thing, people want to read quietly still.

In theory, there have been many discussions and paper based projects on the future of the public library in NL, how to connect with generation Y and AO (Always Online).

In general, I think this is a very good concept, and libraries in Europe are starting to be open minded more and more.

Photo of Meena Kadri

New York Public Libraries seem to have some interesting workshops & competitions for start-ups:

Photo of Hicham null

I want to create a rural eco library in Morocco. Is there a ny chance for collaboration?

View all comments