We met with Susan Evans and Jacob Sayles, owners of Office Nomads, at their 5,000 sq. foot office space on Capitol Hill. We talked about co-working and libraries in the digital age.
What’s co-working and what does it have to do with libraries?
Susan and Jacob explained: Co-working is a response to increased demand for telecommuting and people who want less isolation while working from home. In the beginning people started going to libraries and coffee shops to work but those places weren’t originally intended for business use so co-working spaces developed. Co-working is all over the world. In the U.S. there are 60-80 spaces.
And what does it have to do with libraries?
Susan: I get excited thinking about the fit between libraries and co-working. People need to get out of the house when they’re working. We’re a good fit for people who can afford a little bit for a small office space but if we’re talking about making co-working for more people then a public option is an exciting idea. There are people in business who can’t afford 25$ a day. The libraries aren’t like coffee shops where there are distractions but you can’t use your cell phone or collaborate there and that’s limiting. Wouldn’t it be cool though if there was a publically sponsored workspace? There’s a lot of value in libraries. I think that everyone can also see there could be a lot more.
Jacob: There are some parallels. Libraries have a huge role in education and they have some of the structure for renting out space. Maybe there could be an assessment of how libraries could be a casual co-working space. Maybe between the hours of x and y there could be places where, for instance, you could use your cell phone.
Susan: From a professional point of view, I think that public libraries could be a really great place to embrace the need for public business spaces (and/or job search spaces) and they’d serve a great community need by doing so. I love our libraries but if we’re going to stay home more for our work then we need libraries to be more welcoming of co-working needs. Maybe rather than libraries letting business and work happen there they could support and embrace that.
Jacob: Ballard Library has done a great job of becoming a community hub with the municipal services next door. I love the Ballard library. But people are more and more shifting to building their own content. You can get so many things delivered to your house now that, generally, libraries aren’t really the hub they once were.
Susan: Libraries are wonderful spaces. Clean, beautiful. Capitol Hill has meeting space. Sustainable Capitol Hill used to meet there. It’s one of the first spaces we think of when we need to meet. I think if we’re talking about libraries being an important place to access information or to even out the playing field then they have a huge value and they’re not a place that will diminish until we hit a day and age with free wireless all over or PDA’s in everyone’s life.
Jason: Even if we had free wireless all over and PDA’s there’s still a role for libraries. Once you have infinite knowledge you need the guidance of librarians. We see that here. It’s easy to Google everything but people often turn to us and ask questions. People go to other people for answers.
Susan: It’s a human reaction. ‘I want to talk about it.’ People like to share information. Maybe librarians are no longer keepers of information but they’re…
Susan: tour guides. Public libraries are incredibly important community assets. Sharing resources is a key way to make cities more livable and save us all money in the long run!