Do you have a startup, a small business, or a potentially great idea and you need the resources to jumpstart it? Well, good news: You don’t need a ton of capital yet, you just need a library card.
The fourth floor of the Chattanooga Public Library is a public laboratory and educational facility with a focus on information, design, technology, and the applied arts.
It’s a free collaborative work space dedicated to helping startups and small businesses that aren’t ready, or can’t afford, to spend money on themselves yet.
The library is a place for startups to get their feet wet before fully investing, says Mary Barnett, Public Relations Coordinator for the library’s fourth floor.
The fourth floor has many of the basic resources startups and small businesses need to flourish, including a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, a 3D printer, and full access to the entire Adobe creative suite on three Mac stations. If you need access to any of the equipment or simply need space, square footage, or an audience to beta test your idea, the library has it. And you can have it all with the swipe of a library card.
You will have to reserve time on the 3D printer since it only allows one job at a time and usually stays pretty busy, says Barnett, but all of the other equipment is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The space is public and open to all, especially those entrepreneurs that are just getting started. People can come and go as they please and use the space however they’d like.
But if you ever need help with the equipment, simply book an appointment and someone will help you. “We’re librarians. We won’t do your work for you, but we will definitely help you find the tools to do the work yourself,” says Barnett.
In addition to the basic resources mentioned above, the library also has a wide range of other services available. For example, there are four sewing machines and an embroidery machine also available on the fourth floor, which, like the other equipment, are all accessible and free to use with your library card.
“We’re big on the emphasis of low and high tech. There are lots of ways to enter the startup thing and we aren’t assuming it’s all tech based,” says Barnett.
Treehouse, the online technology education subscription, is also available for free through the library’s fourth floor. With the swipe of a library card you can have access from beginner to advanced courses in several areas of coding, including web design, web development, and mobile development.
The library’s second floor also houses a recording studio and industry-level recording equipment with full access to audio editing software. “Record an audio clip in the studio, then go up to the fourth floor and design your logo or label. It’s a one-stop shop,” says Barnett.
If you’re at the enterprise level, and in need of more high tech gear, the library also has Oculus Rift Virtual Reality developer kits available.
Even the fourth floor’s space itself is extremely versatile and available for use. “We can collapse and expand areas as needed, so if someone comes up and needs a home we will figure it out. It’s a pretty agile space by design. We just adapt, adapt, adapt,” says Barnett.
For evidence of the space’s versatility, Barnett referenced James Candan’s project Flyght Zone Drone Raceway, which allows people to come in, strap on a headset, and race friends with their fleet of first-person-view (FPV) drones.
Candan used the library’s fourth floor when developing and testing the concept for the project. Each weekend from February to March 2016, Candan ran a drone flight school program meant to exemplify their ability to take complete beginners through 1-hour training course and get them in the air long enough to enjoy their experience, push themselves further, and work to beat their friends’ times.
“We utilized the Library’s 4th Floor, a 12,000 square foot space, 5,000 square feet of which is open presentation space. We had room to install a temporary 10’ cubic cage for flying our drones, 6 flight simulator stations provided and sponsored by Chattanooga Youth and Family Development, and a stage and projector where we gave our instructions and flight demo. The space was perfect for our needs, if not too much! It really is amazing up there,” says Candan.
While the lower floors of the library are undergoing renovations that will result in a 40% reduction in annual energy consumption and overall modernize the 40+ year old building, the fourth floor, which celebrates its fourth birthday on March 16, was renovated when it first launched with a large, open-floor concept and moldable design.
“We’re a library. We’re all about access. If you don’t need us, then just come on in. It’s a public space and you can work here every single day if you want. But if you want to hang a sign and use it as a basecamp that you advertise, then let us know. Just sign up and we will help you get set up somewhere,” says Barnett.
To learn more about the resources available on the library’s fourth floor visit their website, or just wander on over and check it out for yourself!