Gone are the days of libraries being the bastion of bookworms and schoolchildren. Today, libraries offer an amazing array of services, and the Akron-Summit County Public Library is no exception.
(Above) Space to Grow. The Microbusiness Center at the Main Library is a free coworking space. Rolling desks can be easily moved to accommodate up to 50 people. A private conference room is available for one-on-one meetings.
From its sleek architecture to its vast offerings, the 270,000-square-foot library complex provides many modern amenities, including free resources for businesses and those seeking to start a business.
In 2016, a $190,000 grant from the Knight Foundation enabled the opening of the library’s Microbusiness Center, a free coworking space for anyone who wants to start or grow a business and does not have a traditional office. It’s a clean, modern space with huge windows, providing abundant natural light and views of Main Street.
An application is required to become a member of the center; however, there are no monthly or other fees to use the amenities, which are available during regular library hours.
The center is equipped with
- rolling desks and chairs,
- two cubicles, each with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard,
- one private room with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard,
- casual seating,
- printer/copier, and
- coat rack.
Additionally, businesses and those aspiring to start a business can receive personalized assistance. Microbusiness Specialist Tracy Williams is available by appointment to help with accessing resources, developing business plans, and addressing specific business needs.
The Microbusiness Center is most easily reached through the Main Street entrance, avoiding the need to navigate through the library down to the first floor. As a bonus, the center connects directly to the adjacent Stray Dog Cafe, providing easy access to a quick bite or cup of coffee.
The library’s Business, Government, and Science division, which operates the Microbusiness Center, also provides specialty information. For example, its Patent and Trademark Resource Center, located at the far end of the first floor, offers resources, patent search classes, and intellectual property information.
The Tech Zone, which is managed by the Electronic Services Division, encompasses one-third of the entire first floor of the library and is outfitted with 40 computers and a host of other equipment and facilities. Computer assistance and classes are offered monthly.
The TechZone includes a makerspace with a variety of tools for free or little cost, including:
- Laser engraver/cutter,
- Button maker,
- Vinyl banner printer,
- 3D printer,
- Design computers (featuring Adobe Creative Suite software),
- Direct-to-garment printer,
- Heat press,
- Photo scanner and printer,
- Media transfer station (for converting VHS, Super 8, vinyl records, cassette tapes, and more to digital), and
- Table-top photo studio (for photographing small products or items).
Some machines must be reserved, have time limits on use (about two hours), and require you to supply your own materials, for example, objects to be etched or new, unwashed t-shirts for garment printing.
If you’ve ever wanted to launch your own podcast, the library has two fully equipped recording studios, which can be reserved for up to three hours every seven days during the library’s operating hours.
A private digital media studio for video and photography can be similarly reserved. Lighting, camera, computer, green screen, and background are available.
TechZone Staff can provide individualized training, tech support by appointment, passport applications and photos, and free notary services.
More Library Features
If your business needs large group space, private meeting rooms with seating for 50-100 people and a 425-seat auditorium are available. Both are located on the second floor, directly accessible from the High Street entrance, and can be rented hourly during or after library hours. Prices range from $50 to $200 per hour. Nonprofits can utilize the meeting rooms for free, but reservations are required.
Accessing Free Resources
A library card is not needed to reserve or use the library’s services; however, one is required to check out materials. You can apply online or onsite. The card also provides access to valuable online resources, including databases, ebooks, movies, and LinkedIn Learning, with thousands of online courses and more than 250,000 video tutorials.
If you think parking in downtown Akron is a barrier to accessing the library’s free business resources, you would be mistaken. The library provides a complimentary one-hour validation ticket for the adjacent High & Market deck. The garage features a covered walkway leading to the second floor of the library and costs only $2 per additional hour. Other nearby parking locations include Super Block, Cascade, and the John S. Knight Center.
60 South High Street
Akron, OH 44326