Phoenix looks to partner with ASU program to turn library into entrepreneurial space

(Marianna Hauglie/DD)
Burton Barr Central Library may soon house another co-working space for entrepreneurs downtown as a collaboration between the ASU Alexandria Network, the library and the city of Phoenix. (Marianna Hauglie/DD)

The city of Phoenix is looking to partner with an ASU program that would turn part of Burton Barr Central Library into another space for entrepreneurs to work.

The Finance, Efficiency and Economy Subcommittee members recommended that Phoenix enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the ASU Alexandria Network in a meeting Wednesday morning. The Alexandria Network is a program that repurposes libraries into EUREKA spaces to support entrepreneurs and advance economic innovation.

EUREKA spaces provide a centralized location where entrepreneurs can use library resources, collaborate, consult with mentors and ideally develop their ideas past the discovery phase, said Economic Development Executive Officer Hank Marshall.

“Libraries are ideal spaces for entrepreneurship because they are a trusted, attractive space for innovators to feel comfortable and access resources,” ASU Venture Manager Tracy Lea said. “The Alexandria Network fits in with the original purpose of a library, to make resources available to a wider constituency.”

The Alexandria Network plans to expand to Burton Barr, which is centrally located with direct access to public transit and proximity to existing entrepreneurial hubs, Phoenix Public Library deputy director for Public Services Paula Fortier said.

The library has earmarked $85,000 to repurpose the second floor into a EUREKA space, she said. The Burton Barr EUREKA space will be an approximately 2,500-square-foot design by Durkin + Durkin and Will Bruder, Fortier said.

Burton Barr offers the venue and day-to-day staff for the EUREKA space. ASU will train library staff, bring in mentors and work collaboratively with the library on programming. Phoenix will provide equipment, reference books and additional staff, Marshall said.

Strong involvement from all three parties is essential to the EUREKA space’s success, Marshall said. Only through collaboration can the specific needs of Phoenix’s entrepreneurs be served.

Burton Barr is not the first Alexandria Network venture. The Scottsdale Alexandria Network at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library launched as the pilot on May 2, 2013.

“The biggest surprise has been the entrepreneurs coming out of the woodwork,” ASU SkySong director Jim Cook said.

Within the first month, 800 innovators visited the Scottsdale EUREKA space. Currently, the Scottsdale Alexandria Network serves 2,300 entrepreneurs.

Phoenix is not the final Alexandria Network venture.

“With Phoenix as our flagship, our goal is to democratize entrepreneurship and reach out to underserved communities,” Cook said.

The Alexandria Network already has potential expansion plans to libraries in California, Washington, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Nevada and New Mexico. Global partnerships with Amsterdam and Canada are also in discussion, according to Cook.

“This is a singular effort of a much larger project,” Marshall said.

The Alexandria Network’s next step is to get approved for a Memorandum of Understanding by the full city council in two to four weeks.

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